May 28, 1948

LIB

Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. FOURNIER (Hull) :

Mr. Chairman, the hon. member for Fraser Valley has suggested that I immediately send the deputy minister of public works out to British Columbia in order that he may see the flood conditions prevailing there. I want to tell him that the deputy minister has been out there now for two days. Along with the resident engineer, Mr. Morton, he has been looking over the conditions in thaj area.

I am not prepared to discuss flood conditions throughout the country. Every day or so during the last two months an hon. member from Ontario, Quebec or some other province has stood up to question the Minister of Public

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Works about flood conditions in his province. The legal authorities of the government inform me that the only jurisdiction the federal government has over waters in the different provinces is that which concerns navigation. We are supposed to look after navigable waters so that navigation will not be impeded by obstacles or works which might be constructed on the river or stream.

I am informed further that these flood conditions would not come under the jurisdiction of the federal government. I must admit that in the past we have entered into agreements to relieve conditions in certain parts of the country, especially in Ontario during the depression years and periods of unemployment. It has not been the practice, however, to undertake works to protect municipalities from floods, and I am told that that is not our responsibility.

The hon. member for Fraser Valley puts it on a wider plane; he says thalt this is a national situation, a national emergency. I suppose that that could be argued, and I am not going to start an argument with him today. Nobody sympathizes more with these people than my department, because we are in daily contact with those who live along these rivers and streams. Wherever we have works or dikes that are causing any damage we attend to the repairs and maintenance of those works, but we would not like to intervene because the provinces are jealous of their autonomy and resent encroachment upon their jurisdiction.

We are hesitant to do anything which is not within our jurisdiction in a province. I am not saying that it has not been done, but I know that in certain provinces whenever we try to do anything that is within provincial jurisdiction they are always ready to say: Why don't you attend to your own affairs? I want to tell you that in public works we are trying to do just that.

We are receiving requests from all over the country, especially during springtime, to relieve these conditions. I do not know that we have done very much so far. Personally I would be elated if this matter came under federal jurisdiction, because in my own district right across the river there is a town of 2,400 people which is flooded out nearly every spring to such an extent that fifty per cent of them must move out. Before I became a minister of the crown I made representations to the government and asked for relief, but the answer I received was just about the answer I am giving today.

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Subtopic:   RECLAMATION AND DEVELOPMENT-ASSISTANCE TO MARITIME PROVINCES
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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FULTON:

I fancy you were dissatisfied?

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LIB

Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. FOURNIER (Hull):

I will not say that I was satisfied. Then I tried to get help from the proper authorities, but I do not know that I was so successful there either. I knew that the municipality could not cope with the situation. It had no means to do so, and it certainly had no control over the flow of the river, especially in the spring.

I do not want to get into an argument, but I recall that in the green book containing proposals of the federal government to the provinces there was reference to public investment, and I believe there were a few paragraphs concerning works of this nature in connection with which the federal government declared itself prepared to co-operate in order to relieve serious conditions in the provinces. I am not reflecting upon what took place at the conference or what was discussed there, but those proposals have never been withdrawn. They are still in the green book which was presented to the premiers of the provinces.

My officials in every part of the country have been instructed to do their utmost, with the staff and the means we have, to help local populations. I am more than pleased to be able to say that my deputy is out there now. Perhaps he foresaw what was going to take place in British Columbia, because he flew out there on Monday or Tuesday. I think he will be back next Tuesday, and if any further questions are put concerning the situation I will be ready to give all the information I can.

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PC

Thomas Langton Church

Progressive Conservative

Mr. CHURCH:

Mr. Chairman, I should like to take three or four minutes of the time of the committee to discuss this particular resolution. In the first place, I should like to see a national policy adopted which would apply not only to the maritimes but throughout the whole country. A number of hon. members visited the city of Toronto some time ago and they saw the marshlands in the Ashbridge's Bay area.- The city built two large dredges at considerable cost which pumped about two and a half million cubic yards of sand and water a day which was used to reclaim this area.

I support the principle of the resolution. The hon. member for Davenport has taken a great deal of interest in this matter. The other day he showed some pictures in the railway committee room which indicated what could be done in this country in the way of reclaiming marshland throughout the country. I believe in certain cases the provinces should contribute towards works of this kind.

Since confederation the only works carried on by the federal government have been those concerning navigation. The public works department erect breakwaters, harbour works

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and all that sort of thing on navigable waters or streams. Many of the reclamation works carried out in the three prairie provinces have been good so far, but I do not agree in the policy involved. Somebody must be responsible for the construction of these works. We should have a national plan but it seems difficult to get a plan at the present time for these reclamation works. I do not think an advisory committee should be appointed. The works are to be undertaken by an advisory committee upon terms and conditions agreed upon with the province prior to Majr 1, 1955, and the Minister of Agriculture is to be empowered to appoint the necessary officers and employees to be paid out of the consolidated revenue fund. There should be a national policy of flood control undertaken in conjunction with the provinces. Some of the dredging plants of the federal government could be used in connection with this work.

Floods are causing widespread damage in every province. We should have a national policy of bonuses, subsidies and subventions on reclamation and flood control. It would not only improve conditions all over Canada and develop our national resources but provide employment. I commend the principle of this resolution. We shall await the bill for details.

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FULTON:

I endorse everything that has been said by the hon. member for Fraser Valley. I saw the Fraser river on Tuesday of this week. It was then four to six feet below the level of the C.P.R. main line, just around Agassiz, a little bit east of where the hon. member comes from. I was told that the previous day it had been below the level of the telegraph poles alongside the railway, and when I was there it was about a foot and a half up the telegraph poles; so you can see the rate at which the river has been rising.

Although my own constituency is not at the moment suffering from major floods, it has rivers which have washed out bridges on highways and railways, but no comparable area to that which has been inundated in the Fraser valley. Although that is true, I support entirely what the hon. member for Fraser Valley said. I agree that it is now a national emergency which must have the consideration and co-operation of the federal government and of all federal departments, although the greatest emergency exists in the hon. member's area and in the area from which the hon. member for Kootenay West comes. I understand he is now out there to see what he can do to help. It is a situation which threatens the whole of the province.

I am intimately acquainted with the rivers of the Fraser river system, the lower end of which flows through the hon. member's riding, but the tributaries of which, many of them, rise in and flow through my own riding. I think we are required to consider two aspects of the matter: first, what we can do to deal with the present condition, which has caused deaths and damage and threatens further damages and possibly further deaths of men and women and of course of all kinds of livestock; second, we must consider how we can prevent such occurrences in the future.

I do not agree with the Minister of Public Works when he says that at the moment there is no way in which the federal government is directly interested in the matter. The Department of Fisheries certainly does not take that view. They go around blowing up dams on our rivers when those who know the situation tell them that if they do so, thereby allowing rapid spring run-offs, they may aggravate the danger of floods. They say they have the power, and they blew out a dam at the end of Adams lake, despite strenuous objections from local people who knew the situation. I am not going to say that that alone actually caused the floods this year, but those who understand these problems tell me that it contributed to them, and that what should be done is to control the run-off where it is most easily controllable-that is, at the source of the trouble, the outlets of our lakes where they become rivers and where you could put a dam which, by raising the level of the water, in the lakes only, from four to six feet, would store a tremendous body of water and also catch the run-off from the mountains. It is at these places that you can control the runoff and prevent such floods as we are now having. That is the proper way to tackle this problem. That is one way which has been urged for some years now.

The federal government has been urged to co-operate with the provincial authorities in making surveys and putting in such installations. In the United States they put in projects covering waterpower, water for irrigation, power for industry and also for irrigation, and projects which will control floods and prevent soil erosion and damage to farms from sudden spring floods. It is that approach we must make to the problem in Canada, and which we have urged on the government for at least two years that I know of in connection with the Prairie Farm Assistance Act.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

We have been doing that for ten years.

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FULTON:

Not in British Columbia, and not to any great extent throughout the rest of Canada.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

To a very considerable extent.

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FULTON:

In the past two years I have asked the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Public Works and the Department of Fisheries, in co-operation with the provincial authorities, to make a survey of the whole Fraser river system to find where projects can best be installed so that we can control the run-off and prevent floods and build up a power system that will also provide irrigation and power for industry. I have been in communication with all these departments, and I had an answer from the Minister of Public Works earlier this year, replying to a letter of mine asking what progress was being made in respect to such a survey. I take it that the minister will have no objection if I read his answer.

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LIB

Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. FOURNIER (Hull):

If I wrote it to you, you can make it public all right.

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FULTON:

I take it that the minister is a little more cautious than other members of the government, who occasionally find the things they have said embarrassing. The minister in his letter said:

This matter is at present receiving the active attention of the department, and I propose taking it -up with my colleagues in council with a view to obtaining the necessary authority for the formation of a board to carry out the required surveys and to submit a complete report on its recommendations, with an estimate of cost of its proposals.

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LIB

Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. FOURNIER (Hull):

If I might intervene, this is an old question, as the hon. member knows. We have had engineers making surveys in the Fraser river valley to try to avoid the conditions described by the hon. member for Fraser Valley, right down to where the river flows into the ocean. Listening to the hon. member for Kamloops, it occurred to me that he seems to know a lot about rivers and streams and dams, and the measures to take to avoid floods. But the reports we have to date are not conclusive. They are to the effect that it is very difficult to deal with conditions in the Fraser river valley. When I wrote that letter we had in mind the constitution of a board consisting of engineers appointed by this government, by the province and by interested municipalities, to make a study and survey and report to the different governments. I can tell the hon. member-without giving the exact date, which I cannot recall-that the government did authorize me to get in touch

with the province and municipalities and help to constitute this board. I believe that one of the outstanding engineers of my department will be a member of the board, which, if I remember rightly, will also have representatives from the departments of fisheries and agriculture. I have not the details, because I was not expecting this debate to come up today, but I know that British Columbia and the municipalities have agreed to appoint representatives. I am not sure whether the surveys have yet been started. The object of this would be to try to devise means to relieve the actual conditions incident to floods in the spring, and also to do what work is necessary at the mouth of the Fraser river, to be carried out by my department each year, in the effort to remove the sandbanks that impede or form an obstacle to navigation. But we take part in these studies only because navigation comes under federal jurisdiction, and we do not shirk our responsibility. As I listen to hon. members in the house speaking of flood conditions, they seem to think that this is a federal problem, and I am simply trying to explain to them the status of the matter. They are not addressing themselves to the right person. I have never said a word against the other bodies which are responsible for the works in connection with these conditions, and I am trying to co-operate. I would ask these hon. members, when the session is over, to get in touch with their friends in their provinces and make to the governments there the same representations that they make to our government, which is the last one to have responsibility in the whole matter.

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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. CRUICKSHANK:

Mr. Chairman, may I interject-

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LIB

William Henry Golding (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN:

I must call the attention of the committee to the fact that what we have before us is a resolution to assist the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in certain respects. The hon. member for Fraser Valley, rightly I believe, brought to the attention of the house an emergency situation which exists at the present time, and I believe he had in mind the question whether anything could be done to help the people concerned in this emergency. However, I would ask hon. members who are discussing that situation in British Columbia to confine their remarks to the emergency, and as soon as they have finished with that we shall go on with the resolution which is before us. I think hon. members should try to confine their

Reclamation of Marshlands

remarks to the situation as described by the hon. member for Fraser Valley.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

On the point raised by the chairman, perhaps it would help if I were to say this. I was going to suggest that we confine ourselves to the matter which was brought up by the hon. member for Fraser Valley, the reason being that-at least this is my hope-as soon as this motion passes the resolution stage and we get the bill into the house, we can go on to deal with the estimates; because some of the matters that are being discussed now could properly be taken up under P.F.R.A. or under special votes provided for British Columbia and other parts of Canada. Most of what has been said by the hon. member for Kamloops should really come under those items. It would be better to discuss them then than to take up so much time now, and then have a discussion again on the items I have indicated. Both the matters having to do with the prairies and with the valleys generally in British Columbia can be considered better under the other items.'

I may say that the director of P.F.R.A. is already in British Columbia. He has been there since Tuesday of this week. The director of marketing went up yesterday and will be taking note of all that is happening in that section of the province, and he will then report back to us.

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FULTON:

I appreciate the point that you have made, Mr. Chairman, and also the remarks of the minister, and I will conclude briefly along the lines you have suggested.

I would point out that to some extent this emergency is aggravated by the conduct of the Department of Fisheries in blowing up a dam without regard to the representations made by farmers and others familiar with the conditions in the district. I would point out further, while I am not going to go into any further details regarding the general approach to the question, that this matter is so serious that we must immediately take steps to prevent a recurrence of these conditions. In my opinion the Minister of Public Works is and should be interested in these measures, because the rivers to which I refer are navigable, and I have a direct interest in the flood conditions in that province because there will be floods in my own constituency this year. They are starting now. Though they are not yet as serious as they are in the Fraser valley, nevertheless they are developing and we fear they may become very serious. I hope therefore that

[The Deputy Chairman.]

the three ministers, of agriculture, fisheries and public works, will, in conjunction with our own departments in the province, send their officials to our area; and while taking steps to relieve the present emergency they should, I suggest, bear in mind details in connection with a long-range program such as I have spoken of. I have urged such a program for the past two years and I think it should be implemented. Incidentally, I know that the ministers in British Columbia are in general in accord with a project along the lines that I have suggested.

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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. CRUICKSHANK:

I think hon. members will bear me out when I say that I was not offering criticism generall}'. I am talking about the present national emergency, though I may say that I shall have a good deal to say about the minister's department and other departments as well. There are things he should do that he has not done. However, I was speaking of the emergency. What I am trying to do is to impress upon the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of National Defence the importance of this question, and the urgency of the situation. The Minister of National Defence has a very large camp in that particular area. There is also situated there the second best airport in the dominion, and I was trying to impress upon the ministers that this is a national emergency which must be considered by the government as such. I entirely disagree with the Minister of Public Works in his interpretation of the facts relating to this condition. I repeat, it is a national emergency and as such it must be considered at once by the government. So far as the estimates of the Minister of Agriculture are concerned, they do not amount to two bits compared to this question.

I know that the Minister of Agriculture wants to get away to some other area-I do not know for what purpose-but at the same time I must urge upon him the importance of dealing with this situation. I am not depreciating the marshlands of the maritimes, but that is something that can wait until tomorrow. There is no need to rush it through while the whole Pacific coast is in danger. I deprecate the idea of rushing estimates through when not only the economy of the dominion but lives are at stake.

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

I think it might be interesting to hon. members to hear something of the steps that are being taken in this connection by the Department of National Defence, which has been in close touch with the situation. I did not anticipate the discussion that has arisen this afternoon and

Reclamation oj Marshlands

therefore I have not a full report, but since the discussion began I made some inquiries and I can speak briefly on what we are doing.

Rear Admiral Mainguy, commanding the Royal Canadian Navy on the Pacific coast, sent a signal to H.M.C.S. Discovery at Vancouver: "Render any assistance", and also to all ships on the Pacific coast: "All power boats are to be brought on short notice to assist in flood emergency on Fraser river; above boats to be fuelled, watered and provisioned". A navy tug was dispatched to New Westminster. All these boats are furnished with emergency and life-saving equipment. Yesterday the signal service took over the ordinary Canadian National railway service of telegraphs through some of the flood areas, which was interrupted because the poles were down. The air force is dispatching one or more Dakotas from No. 12 group of the northwest air command, carrying sandbags to Cranbrook for use at Kimberley. At Chilliwack we have the engineers' school and training establishment, which is working full-time assisting in flood control. Also at one or two localities reserve units have been put on active service at the request of the local authorities, and instructions have been given to all three services to do everything that can be done, and that is necessary, in co-operation with the provincial and local authorities.

I should add that the Canadian armed forces, as I think hon. members know, are not equipped in the same way as are the United States forces, because in the United States the army engineers do a large part of all public work. That has never been the practice in Canada. Perhaps we should do more of this work in order to gain training experience; but whenever it has been possible to put at the disposal of local authorities such facilities as the armed forces have, we have done that as a work of national service, and also because it is of direct value in connection with training. But here in this case we have a direct and immediate interest because our own establishments are endangered by reason of the flooding. Other steps are being taken. I have given instructions that everything possible be done.

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CCF

James Herbert Matthews

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MATTHEWS (Kootenay East):

I wish to support all that has been said by the hon. member for Fraser Valley and the hon. member for Kamloops. I am also interested in what the Minister of National Defence has just said. It bears out the assertion that what has been happening in British Columbia is a calamity of the first magnitude which should take precedence over the rest of the business of this house.

I listened with great interest to what the Minister of Public Works had to say a little while ago, when he was emphasizing the division of responsibility between the federal department and the provincial department. I should like to say to him that there are times when these disasters are of such magnitude that they sweep away all jurisdictional prejudices that may arise.

I was in telephonic communication this morning with the mayor of my home town of Fernie, which has been isolated by road and rail for all of this past week. Highway bridges have gone out, which of course the provincial government will be prepared to take care of; also a C.P.R. bridge has gone out, which the C.P.R. will be prepared to take care of. But what I am greatly concerned about is what is happening in the town of Kimberley in the riding of Kootenay East. A small creek, called Mark creek, runs through the centre of the town. There has been a flash flood; and the creek has gone completely on the rampage. Many homes have been washed away and destroyed, and several hundred people have been rendered homeless.

I want to say here a word of thanks to the Red Cross for the splendid way in which they moved in at once to render all the help they possibly could, and also to the Minister of National Defence for the way in which the militia department stepped in, shipping in thousands of sandbags and men ready to assist in any possible way. But what I am mainly concerned about is this. Who is going to help the people who have lost their all? They are not worrying about whether it is a federal responsibility or a provincial responsibility. Through no fault of their own and certainly I am not attributing any blame or negligence to the provincial department or the federal department; you might call it an act of God- everything they possess has been swept away. I for one cannot see how we in the nation's parliament can just sit here and say: Oh, it is too bad, but it has nothing to do with us. May I refer for just a moment to the fact that we have been discussing in these last few days a national budget, in which the minister has shown that he has a surplus of about $670 million. Surely it will do no harm to take a few million dollars of that money and use it wisely in the various parts of British Columbia which are suffering so terribly, in order to help to relieve cases of necessity that are most pressing. Of course it would be a matter for consideration on the part of the federal department as well as of the provincial department to see that help is rendered to the most needy cases. I do not think that we here in Ottawa can realize the magnitude of what is

450C

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happening in British Columbia. I have known, as has the Minister of Public Works, for many years the difficulty that is experienced in Gatineau Point from year to year. But they know what happens there almost every year, and they can be prepared for it. Out in British Columbia, however, this is something unusual. It is the greatest flood damage in fifty years, caused by excessively heavy snow-falll in the mountains-a sudden spell of hot weather which brings down all that water-and people suffer. Surely the needs of these people can be aired, and they are entitled to the assurance that aid will be given.

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PC

James Arthur Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

First of all I want to concur in all that has been said by various members from British Columbia, because I can assure hon. members that in parts of the prairie provinces we have gone through the very same thing this past spring. Not only has there been danger of loss of life; a dozen lives have actually been lost through flooding in the prairie provinces. Many hundreds of people have lost their homes. This has been going on for nearly two months; and now in northern Manitoba, in The Pas area, the same thing is happening as happened in British Columbia; many hundreds of people there have lost their all, their life savings. They have no place in which to live. It is a serious business.

As the previous speaker, the hon. member for Kootenay East, has just said, this has been an abnormal season. In our part of the country we did not have ordinary winter thaws. We had heavy snowfalls, then extremely heavy rains taking the snow away, and the run-offs could not handle the water.

Apart from the serious business of the loss of life that has occurred and the many more lives that are in danger, many who make their livelihood on farms will lose their entire year's operations this year. They will have no income whatever. While we think we have been fortunate in having had the P.F.R.A. and P.F.A.A. in the prairie provinces, the regulations under those two measures will not take care of many of the people who have lost everything owing to flooding.

I want to pay a compliment to the minister of National Defence. The troops under him helped a great deal, as was so well described by the hon. member for Portage la Prairie a while ago, in connection with flooding from the Assiniboine river. The troops worked night and day, and we cannot thank them too much. They have rendered splendid service wherever they have happened to be stationed in western Canada. This flooding business is certainly a national disaster, affecting as it does thousands

of people west of the great lakes, right through to the western coast. It is a serious source of trouble.

I know, as the minister has said, that under our governmental set-up these matters are first the duty of the municipality; in turn, when the municipality cannot settle them, they must go to the province; and the province in turn goes to the federal government. But this is truly a national emergency. The people in some parts of Manitoba have probably been more accustomed to this sort of thing, on the Red river and on the Assiniboine, and out on the Souris where I have been, and you have not seen anything about it in the press. Many farmers in my constituency will not seed an acre this year and have not an acre of pasture for their cattle. They are losing their only opportunity to make any revenue for the entire year; therefore we are facing disaster which will require federal assistance. That of course we can discuss at the appropriate time.

To deal for a moment with the resolution which is before the committee, I should like to raise a question before the minister replies. The resolution reads:

That it is expedient to present a bill to assist the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in the reclamation and development of marshlands in the said provinces by the construction and reconstruction of works necessary therefor and the purchase of . required machinery and equipment. Works may be undertaken only on the recommendation of an advisory committee to be established under the act and upon terms and conditions agreed upon with the province concerned prior to the first day of May, nineteen hundred and fifty-five. The Minister of Agriculture is empowered to appoint necessary temporary officers and employees to be paid out of the consolidated revenue fund with provision also for the payment of expenses of members of the advisory committees.

To me that seems exactly the same as the duties and objects set out in the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act, with which I have had some experience. For the past two years I have had on the order paper the following resolution:

That in the opinion of this house the government should take into consideration the advisability of expanding the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act into a national soil conservation and farm rehabilitation act and extending its activities to all the settled farm areas of Canada.

The point I want to make is that we have this administration already set up. As I read the resolution the bill will call for exactly the same kind of work and the same kind of advisory committees. It is true that some added personnel would be required, including persons who are conversant with that particular area; but I should like to know why it is necessary

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to bring in a new bill instead of amending the existing act to take advantage of the administration already organized. It seems to me that would be far more efficient.

For some sessions now various members from the maritimes, including the hon. member for Cumberland, the hon. member for Colchester-Hants, the hon. member for Saint John-Albert and others, have been pressing the government to do something about the reclamation of these marshlands, and I am sure those hon. members will have much to say on this measure. When the minister speaks, however, I should like him to tell us why it would not be more efficient to deal with this matter by amending the act already on our statute book and making use of the experienced and efficient men who are in charge of that organization, instead of setting up a new administration which will require a complete new staff, new equipment, and so on.

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May 28, 1948