I must differ; what are the
facts about this irrigation project? The provincial government has always maintained, as I think most Liberal speakers have maintained until the C.C.F. came into power in Saskatchewan, that this irrigation project was primarily a federal project. We heard very little until about a year ago about the fact that the provincial government would be expected to pay a large portion of these costs.
In discussing his estimates on October 14, 1949, the minister made this statement, as reported in Hansard at page 812:
We must have assurances from somebody that an organization will be set up to utilize the water, and that they are going to contribute a share of the cost sufficient to ensure that they will take some responsibility for seeing that the work is carried on.
In other words, he went on to point out that the provincial government would have to pay a substantial share of the cost. We felt that this was not in the best interests of the nation, first of all because provincial revenues are so limited and, secondly, because the federal government has had such huge surpluses since the end of the war. It seemed obvious that the federal government, because the project was national in scope, should be able to proceed more satisfactorily. However, the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) has refused since that time to discuss the subject, except on the basis that the province would pay a substantial amount.
Finally, two weeks ago the minister went to Regina, I understand, and met the Saskatchewan government. They told him, in effect, that they still felt it was a federal responsibility. However, in order to get the project started, and in order to try to get the work under way, they were reluctantly prepared to bear a share of the costs. They asked for specific information as to what was involved.
410 HOUSE OF
The Address-Mr. Thatcher
I understand that the province was told it would have to be responsible, first, for $19 million to build a distribution system; secondly, for an estimated $6 million for levelling the land-the water owners would pay part eventually-and, thirdly, for $8 million to instal hydroelectric installations. The federal government would pay $68 million for the dam. In others words, the federal government was asking the government of Saskatchewan to pay the staggering sum of $33 million. The Minister of Agriculture certainly threw down a challenge when he asked them to find that amount of money.
However, the provincial government was so anxious to see the work started that after much consideration, even though the costs involved were so heavy, even though they still thought the matter was a federal responsibility, and even though their revenues were limited, they decided they would proceed on the basis of the figure that was outlined to them by the Minister of Agriculture and his departmental officials. The premier of the province has made this specific commitment to the minister, as he mentioned in a letter a moment ago:
As soon as the federal government has announced its intention to proceed with this undertaking we are prepared to negotiate and sign an agreement on the basis of the allocation of costs outlined above.
In other words the provincial government is prepared to raise $33 million. How they will do it I do not know, but they are ready to go ahead with the project. They have agreed to the proposal, even though they think the terms are very severe. They are going to go along with it because they have to; they have accepted the minister's challenge.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY