February 4, 1953

SC

Victor Quelch

Social Credit

Mr. Quelch:

Would the hon. member permit an interjection? If he would rather not, I shall not insist. However, I thought I made it clear that since that time a lot of facts have come to light which throw doubt on the advisability of proceeding with the power development. But we still strongly support the idea of a dam, a reservoir and irrigation.

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CCF

Hazen Robert Argue

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

Mr. Argue:

I am not a member of the Social Credit party, and do not caucus with them. I do not want to say what stand that party has taken and so far as I am concerned I shall wait until I hear from the leader of that group in this debate.

The South Saskatchewan river project has been talked about for a good many years- since 1935, I believe. Surveys have been made year after year by P.F.R.A. engineers. The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) and other spokesmen for the Liberal party, in one election after another, have gone on record in support of the building of the South Saskatchewan river project. I am pleased to note that the official opposition is supporting this project. Certainly we in the C.C.F. group, members from Saskatchewan in particular, are supporting the project wholeheartedly.

I think in assessing the benefits of a large undertaking such as the South Saskatchewan project members of parliament should look at it from a national point of view. We should attempt to find out whether it will not only help our fellow citizens in a certain part of Canada but whether secondary benefits flowing from the project would improve the standard of living and well-being of all our citizens.

Members of this group have supported the Canso causeway. We have supported the St. Lawrence seaway development. In our view the Canso causeway was needed in the maritime provinces, and for that reason it received our support. We viewed the St. Lawrence seaway development as something advantageous to central Canada. We now look at the proposed South Saskatchewan project as one which will bring to a large area in western Canada benefits that will be available to the people in that region, just as the St. Lawrence seaway and the Canso causeway will benefit other sections of Canada.

As I have said, the Minister of Agriculture and other spokesmen for the government have gone on record favouring this project. So have members representing all the other parties in the house. My question is, then: What are we waiting for? It is time the government made up its mind and announced a project on the basis of repeated recommendations from its own P.F.R.A. engineers. As Dr. George Spence, former P.F.R.A. director, has said, those people have lived with this problem now for almost half a lifetime.

The information contained in the report of the royal commission was pretty well known some months ago. It was officially tabled in the house on January 19, more than two weeks ago. P.F.R.A. engineers in 1951 apparently had completed all their studies and recommended that the project be undertaken. I say to the government now that what we in this group as well as the people in western Canada, particularly those in Saskatchewan, are asking is that the government announce that it is going ahead with the project, and that it do so in such a way as to guarantee its being built.

The amendment before us regrets that the government has not placed an item in the estimates to cover this expenditure, and the amendment most certainly will have my support. The hon. member for Kindersley (Mr. Larson) who set forth some of the main advantages that would flow from the project, said that the amount involved would be only six or seven million dollars a year. Well, we want something more than an item of $6 million in the estimates. Such an item might appear in this year's estimates and

South Saskatchewan River Project again next year and the year after. As happens in connection with some items, it might appear merely as a revote. In other words an item might appear in the estimates without very much being done by way of construction.

In my view the government should place on the statute books of Canada whatever legislation is necessary to guarantee that this project will be proceeded with and completed. We have already waited far too long. We have heard the Minister of Agriculture and others set forth the advantages of this project. In general elections and in by-elections we have heard them make the statement that, in order to have this work done, the thing to do was to send supporters of this government to the House of Commons.

In their wisdom, from time to time the people of Saskatchewan have sent a number of government supporters to the house. We are now very tired of hearing these promises repeated time and again, but not fulfilled. We want action now; we want legislation now. The government of Saskatchewan is prepared to enter into an agreement. The minister of agriculture and the premier of that province have stated that Saskatchewan is prepared now to enter into an agreement with the federal government and is prepared to undertake its share of the cost with respect to the project on the same basis as the costs of other irrigation projects have been shared with the province of Alberta.

I am sure the present royal commission report must be rather embarrassing to some members of the government. In the last few years we have had a royal commission on transportation, the Massey royal commission on arts, letters and sciences, and the now famous Currie report which is comparable to the report of a royal commission. We now have a royal commission report on the South Saskatchewan river dam. Apparently we are getting government by royal commission. I say that when members of parliament on all sides of the house want something, then the government should give the necessary leadership to carry out the wishes of members of parliament and should not set up another inquiry in order to establish whether or not the project is feasible.

In this instance we have had another inquiry and the commissioners have cast grave doubts on the feasibility of the project. Their report is now something that is standing in the road that must be gotten rid of before we can go ahead with the project. Surely the vast majority of members in the house realize that the reports made year after year by the government's own P.F.R.A. engineers are the ones to which attention

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South Saskatchewan River Project should be paid. I have been handed a clipping from tonight's Ottawa Journal. It is a Canadian Press dispatch from Regina, and I certainly agree with it. It reads as follows:

The Saskatchewan Liberal party yesterday said the federal government should ignore the findings of the royal commission on the South Saskatchewan river project.

We think they should ignore these findings, and we in this group are sorry the royal commission was ever appointed. I think the best thing the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) could do with the report would be to gather together all copies of it, throw them in the Saskatchewan river and let them go down to the sea. In my opinion there is nothing valuable in the report that has not already been reported many times, and there are other parts that are of no value, so possibly the whole report might be handled in the way I have suggested.

A lot has been said about the advantages of the South Saskatchewan river project to the people of that province. Naturally two of the main advantages are irrigation and the providing of Saskatchewan with a source of cheap power. We believe that by reason of the large power facilities that could be installed if such a project were undertaken we would have a reasonable chance of attracting industry to our province in the future. Saskatchewan is basically an agricultural province. We are really a one commodity province. We are a wheat province, and while we have had good fortune in the last number of years in growing and selling our wheat, no doubt there will be years in the future when our crops will be low in yield because of drought, and there will in all probability be years in the future when prices will be lower. Certainly anything that can be done to bring industries to our province will be a stabilizing influence on our economy.

Naturally I am interested in the effect of irrigation on our agricultural industry. I have read the statement made by the Saskatchewan government to the royal commission. In that statement the provincial minister of agriculture points out that right now the province really has 10,000 too many farm units, too many because their size is so small that the units are uneconomic. He points out that even with all the irrigation that may be developed and the new land that may be brought under cultivation, the best we can hope for is an additional 5,000 units. Our own Canadian citizens, our own farmers who are farming in the drought area, or who are farming on units uneconomic because of smallness of size, would welcome the opportunity to engage in the irrigation farming

that would follow the development of the South Saskatchewan river project.

We did not think it was necessary in the first place to appoint a commission at all, and of course it gave us some concern that on that commission were two hydro engineers and only one irrigation engineer. We feel that if the personnel of the commission by way of qualification had been reversed, it is very likely the report would have been favourable. The report advocates further studies, many of which have already been made, and in so doing it seems to me that some members of the royal commission want to continue their jobs for years to come. I do not blame anyone for attempting to have a good job if he can get it, but when this project is so necessary for the people of Saskatchewan I do not think the wishes of one or more individuals, who hope they may get lucrative employment, should be a sufficiently good reason for accepting a recommendation that a lot more study of this project is needed.

It has already been said that some of the estimates of the royal commission with respect to costs of the project are fantastic. The commissioners have loaded their estimates against the South Saskatchewan project. In addition to actual construction estimates they have included such estimate items as $12,300,000 for general expense, over $6 million for interest during construction, and $4 million for other contingencies after having provided for every conceivable contingency in their estimates. Then they have a figure of $10 million for escalation of wages and materials. That is a kind of cost of living index that can only go up. Here they have suggested an unnecessary $10 million for some construction firm that may undertake this project.

Then they come to another amazing finding, namely that there are no stones in Saskatchewan. I imagine that the municipality in which I live could make a very substantial contribution to the rock necessary for the riprap on the spillway. But the commissioners have a place where they are going to get rock. They are going to go to the Frank slide in the western part of Alberta. They are going to bring rock from the Rocky mountains, and because they are going to go to the Frank slide the cost of the rock will be increased from $4.20 per cubic yard to $11 per cubic yard.

For this reason alone the project will cost another $4f million.

After the commission has made these fantastic estimates of the cost, then they decide they are going to assess the advantages that will flow from this project. In one place they

state there will be a saving of $10J million in relief over the next 35 years. Well, the Saskatchewan brief lists some of the costs that have been incurred to date under P.F.A.A. expenditures in time of crop failure, direct relief expenditures and amounts that have been expended through tax and debt cancellation, but the Saskatchewan brief does not arrive at $101 million. It arrives at a figure of over $400 million.

Well, we would not expect to save all of that even if this project were completed, but certainly a saving of $10J million over the next 35 years in the way of relief in time of crop failure is just about as nonsensical the opposite way as are the inflated estimates in their report.

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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

One of -those silliest blank, blank ideas.

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CCF

Hazen Robert Argue

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

Mr. Argue:

The Regina Leader-Post points this out in an editorial of Tuesday, January 20, and has this to say:

The commission went to the other extreme in estimating the economic returns from the project. It ignored the province's estimate that increased annual agricultural output in the irrigated area would range from $34,151,157 initially to $50,543,237 when maturity had been attained. Instead, the commission in its balance sheet entered on the credit side the equivalent of a niggardly amount of less than $3 million a year for the first 35 years.

So when it comes to assessing the benefits that will flow from this project the commission makes the benefits just as small as it possibly can. Then, of course, it establishes the conclusion that this would not be an economic project, as it wants the investment to pay the government 3J per cent a year.

That royal commission is looking at this whole project from the standpoint of a businessman who is making an investment and wants to be assured of a fair return on the capital he is providing. I do not think that is the attitude the federal government should take. I hope it is not the attitude it will take. Surely if by investing $60 million or $100 million, or let us -call it $250 million over a ten-year period, we can save many thousands of farmers of Saskatchewan from the ravages of drought; if we can provide secondary industry for that province; in other words, if we -can lift the living standards of that section of our Canadian population living in Saskatchewan, then surely the results that flow from that investment should warrant the investment even if the federal government never got a dollar as an actual return from -the investment. If we do not go ahead with the project the federal treasury in the future as in the past will be called upon from year to year and from time to time to expend millions of dollars in relief.

South Saskatchewan River Project It will spend millions of dollars to provide prairie farm assistance and will wind up, instead of having saved money because it did not go ahead with the project, losing money because it lacked the foresight to see the economic advantages that would flow from the project.

The report contains other criticisms of the project. I think these criticisms have been dealt with very well by Dr. George Spence, who for a number of years was a director of the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act. He has an article in the Regina Leader-Post of Thursday, January 22, and point by point deals with the objections made by the royal commission. The report says that pumping schemes might be studied and in connection with that suggestion Dr. Spence says: Pumping schemes, without specifying where the cheap power is to come from, are among other things suggested. Strange but true, the commission advocates pumping in one breath and questions the efficacy of that system in the next.

He points out that if you are going to attempt to irrigate by pumping from the river without a dam having been built you will need your greatest quantity of water naturally in July and August when the crop is growing and when it is maturing, and in these two months the river is at its lowest point. For that reason pumping is out of the question.

Then he deals with the suggestion in the commission's report that we should do something to take this water where it is needed most, to the more arid regions of Saskatchewan and Alberta. He points out that the soil and topography of that more arid region make that region unsuitable for irrigation. You cannot take water uphill. You cannot irrigate the tops of hills and so, when you get into rolling country, irrigation becomes impractical. He points out too that that soil is not suitable for irrigation because it has a high mineral content. If you bring water on a soil that has a very high mineral content, a substantial alkali content, you bring the mineral salts to the top of the soil and your soil is ruined. Dr. Spence says that the arid area in Saskatchewan is now being used for pasture and that is its proper use, that it is not suitable for irrigation.

He goes on to point out that every conceivable irrigation project has been studied for years by P.F.R.A. engineers. He says that if any alternative to this program existed the P.F.R.A. officials would have found that alternative -and would have recommended it; -because they have lived with the project, they are qualified persons and they have recommended this project. One of the reasons for recommending it is because

South Saskatchewan River Project it does not interfere with any other project that may be undertaken with advantage.

The position of the Saskatchewan government is crystal clear. The Saskatchewan government has supported this project ever since its election to office in 1944. In their submission to the royal commission they point out that they want an opportunity for an early start on the dam. When the royal commission report was tabled and made public, the Saskatchewan minister of agriculture made the position of the Saskatchewan government very clear. The Regina Leader-Post in an editorial on Thursday, January 15, makes this comment:

Undoubtedly the most significant part of agriculture minister Nollet's statement of January 12 concerning the "excessively high" estimate of $250 million on the costs of the South Saskatchewan river development project, which the royal commission is reported to have advanced, was the following statement:

The Saskatchewan government pledged its financial support to the project long ago and reiterates its anxiety to fulfil the commitment for the cost and construction of that part of the project assigned to the province on the basis similar to other major irrigation projects.

This is capable of only one interpretation; the Saskatchewan government is not alarmed over the patently inflated cost estimate on which the commission reportedly based its findings. It is prepared to go ahead with its part of the undertaking despite the forecasted unfavourable aspects of the commission's findings. It is not doing so blindly, with a wanton disregard of the probable cost. As Mr. Nollet pointed out, the province has checked the much lower cost figure based on "estimates meticulously prepared by the P.F.R.A., which were ignored by the commission in favour of a contractor's estimates". It has shaped its policy on a greater reliance on the more realistic P.F.R.A. estimate than on the fantastic quotation which it is said was prepared for the commission by the contractor.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, the commission was at fault in another way. They went to Alberta and asked a contracting firm, the Mannix corporation, to make an estimate. When the estimate was made, the commission would not allow the representatives of the Saskatchewan government to cross-examine the representatives of the Mannix corporation on their estimates. This company sends in an inflated estimate, and the people concerned are not allowed to cross-examine them and find out the basis upon which the estimate was made.

I believe another mistake was made when the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) gave instructions to the royal commission, or more probably to the P.F.R.A., that P.F.R.A. officials were not to appear before the commission. If the commission was to do its work fairly and honestly, and take into account all the factors, surely the P.F.R.A. officials should have been called before that commission at a public hearing. These officials should have

been allowed not only to produce the information they had, but to cross-examine the Mannix company on its fantastic estimate.

Shortly after the commission report was made, Dr. L. B. Thomson, the director of the P.F.R.A., spoke at Saskatoon. While he was referring to the report itself, he made it crystal clear in a public statement that the P.F.R.A. still supported the South Saskatchewan project. He should have been invited to make such a public statement before the royal commission when it was sitting.

It is strange the way the government has acted with regard to the royal commission on the South Saskatchewan as compared to its action in connection with the Currie report. Before the Currie report was made public, it had to go to the Department of National Defence to be looked over. If the department did not agree with what was in it, apparently they cut out those parts. When it came to the report of the royal commission on the South Saskatchewan project, the Prime Minister and the government instructed P.F.R.A. officials not to appear before that royal commission. I do not think the royal commission report should have been-

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

May I say, Mr. Speaker, that my hon. friend is not representing the position correctly. The officials of P.F.R.A. were available to the commission every day the commission was in existence, right from the time they were appointed until they went out of office.

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CCF

Hazen Robert Argue

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

Mr. Argue:

That doesn't alter my statement. I think that rather than having them available in a back room some place, P.F.R.A. officials should have been allowed, as they were not allowed, to go before that commission in a public hearing and state their position concerning this project.

We have before us, Mr. Speaker, an amendment and a subamendment. The amendment, as it appears at page 1591 of Hansard for February 3, 1953, reads as follows:

This house regrets that in the estimates presented to this house no provision has been made for immediately proceeding with the construction of the South Saskatchewan river dam.

I am sorry that the hon. member for Kin-dersley (Mr. Larson) and the hon. member for Regina City (Mr. McCusker) have taken this to be a want of confidence motion which threatens the existence of the government. They say, therefore, they are not prepared to vote for that amendment. I feel that they should have taken the same attitude members of their party took back in 1946 when there was a motion before the house asking the government to continue the subsidy on milk. One Liberal member after another got up

and said he was supporting the motion. After that support was made known, the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) rose in his place and told the members on the government side of the house they were to be allowed a free vote on the motion. I believe there should be a free vote on this motion, and that those members should not be governed by the party whips.

As I pointed out some time ago, we would like to see a better guarantee than merely an item in the estimates. You can put something in the estimates and leave it there for the next ten years, but it may not move a cubic yard of dirt on the South Saskatchewan project. We would like to see concrete legislation, and an agreement in concrete terms with Saskatchewan whereby we will know that within the next ten years we shall have the dam constructed and whatever other works are essential within that period of time. The hon. member for Melfort (Mr. Wright) moved a subamendment which I seconded. The subamendment, as it appears on page 1600 of Hansard for February 3, 1953, reads as follows:

as recommended by the federal government's P.F.R.A. engineers.

I hope the Liberal members from Saskatchewan, if they are not prepared to support the amendment, will at least support the subamendment. By so doing they will show that they support the recommendations of their own P.F.R.A. engineers. I think all of us from Saskatchewan, irrespective of party, should stand by the P.F.R.A. engineers. If the subamendment carried, it would not defeat the government at all. Then the government could have a second look at the motion as amended, and do what they saw fit with the amended motion. In the meantime, Liberal

South Saskatchewan River Project members would have at least given some support by way of vote to the South Saskatchewan project.

I move the adjournment of the debate.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

May I ask if the member has had his forty minutes?

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LIB

Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

A question is asked as to whether the member for Assiniboia (Mr. Argue) has taken up all his time. He has two minutes left.

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CCF

Hazen Robert Argue

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

Mr. Argue:

I shall relinquish my place, Mr. Speaker. I thought I had five or ten minutes left.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

If the hon. member has exhausted his time, I would move the adjournment of the debate.

Motion agreed to and the debate adjourned.

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BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. Fournier (Hull):

Tomorrow we shall take up Bill No. 38, respecting the Saint John Bridge and Railway Extension Company; Bill No. 39, to amend the Canadian Overseas Telecommunication Corporation Act; Bill No. 19, to amend the Canadian Vessel Construction Assistance Act; Bill No. 40, respecting the appointment of auditors for national railways. Then we shall take up the resolutions standing in the name of the Minister of Resources and Development respecting the conservation of water resources; the historic sites and monuments board of Canada; revision of the Yukon Act, and if we have time left we shall try to agree on some other bills.

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At six o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order.



Thursday, February 5, 1953


February 4, 1953