May 17, 1955

CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. G. H. Castleden (Yorkton):

Mr. Speaker, the disaster which struck the province of Saskatchewan and western Manitoba earlier this month-perhaps the hon. member for Swift Current-Maple Creek will allow me to say a few words; he may speak afterwards if he wishes-was reported as being of major proportions, so far as its effect on the farmers of that area is concerned.

It has required about a week and a half or two weeks to make a survey of the situation. The recent survey shows that although the western part of the province is not badly hit, the eastern part is suffering seriously, so seriously in fact that the farmers' union in that area wired most members of the House of Commons as follows:

Many thousands Saskatchewan farmers unable to seed crop this spring. Conditions desperate In widespread areas due to adverse weather and flooding. Saskatchewan fanners union stresses urgent need for program to alleviate distress. Situation demands immediate action. Union pledges full co-operation to implement adequate assistance program.

The constituency I represent in the eastern part of the province is traversed by the Assiniboine river. The farmers, particularly those in the valley of the Assiniboine, and with special reference to the area of Kam-sack, for the last three years have suffered from flooding. The result is that about 10,000 acres in that area will produce

Floods in Western Canada absolutely nothing. But their disaster is small when compared with what is happening in the rest of the province.

I have before me the official report made by government officials, in which they say, in part:

That a most serious situation exists was confirmed by supplementary reports from agricultural representatives, received on Thursday and Friday of last week. Their preliminary reports estimated a total of 4,760,000 acres of cultivated land flooded, and 14,810 farmers seriously affected by flooding.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

I rise on a point of order, to point out that the hon. member is proceeding to discuss just what Your Honour has said is out of order. You so indicated when the hon. member for Moose Mountain was speaking. I suggest the hon. member for Yorkton is also out of order to discuss the same matter.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Caslleden:

I do not believe I have spoken on this subject.

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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

When I interrupted the hon. member for Moose Mountain my remarks were based on the provisions of standing order 40 (2), which deals with the subject of repetition either of one's own arguments or of the arguments used by others in a debate.

While at the moment the hon. member for Yorkton may be using some -arguments used during the budget debate by other hon. members, at least he has not spoken on the matter of the flood. I have been looking at his remarks in Hansard for May 5 and, on glancing through them quickly, I can find no place where he discussed the flood. As a matter of fact I do not think it had taken place at that time.

On the other hand the hon. member for Moose Mountain had spoken on the subject of the flood, and when he intimated that he was about to do so again I referred to standing order 40 (2), as a result of which he was good enough not to further pursue his observations on this subject matter. I shall listen very carefully to the hon. member for Yorkton, and if he does cover ground which has already been covered by his colleagues from the same province I shall have to remind him of the same rule.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Caslleden:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When I was speaking on May 5 I was referring to the fact that the explosion of atomic bombs in a desert region in the country to the south of us might have had some effect on the weather. I might add that since the last explosion of bombs in the Nevada desert we have had another three days of rain in eastern Saskatchewan, and some may think there is weight in my contention of that time.

I assure the house the figures I am now going to place on Hansard have not been given before. These are some of the facts and figures required by the government before it can assess properly whether or not it has the right to declare the flooding in western Canada a national disaster.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

The government has them already. The government has read that statement you are now going to read.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Caslleden:

And thus far it has not made any declaration as to whether it considers the flooding a matter of sufficient importance to declare the area affected a disaster area. However, the government did ask for figures, and for an opportunity to assess the damage.

We are here tonight to present the case before the House of Commons in the hope that it might influence the government to make some decision as to whether the area affected can be declared a disaster area. The type of disaster involved in this instance perhaps is not as spectacular as was the case at Rimouski or the Fraser valley, where smaller areas were affected. This affects a sector as widespread as has ever been affected by disaster in Canada, and I believe it affects as many as if not more than were affected by the Winnipeg flood or the flood in the Fraser valley.

I suggest that in making its decision as to whether or not a disaster area shall be declared, the government should use these facts and figures, and that such figures should be available to members of the House of Commons when they are asked to make up their minds whether they should support the government in the request for assistance that has been made.

The eastern portion of the province is settled to a great extent by farmers who operate on a small scale, in most cases involving half or quarter sections of land. The largest proportion of the thickly settled part of Saskatchewan is in the eastern area. There are over 50,000 farmers in that province whose farmlands consist of one or two quarters. The census returns show that in those areas their net income was less than $2,500 a year per family. This area produced a badly frozen crop in 1952, a good average crop in 1953 with the exception of some parts which experienced flooding, and in 1954 rust and frost and floods and wet weather were involved. In their efforts to relieve the situation the provincial government has spent over $3,225,000.

The provincial department of highways has estimated that $1,208,000 worth of damage

has been done to the provincial highway system alone. The damage done in municipal areas, has not yet been properly estimated. It will take some time to get complete figures from the municipalities. The difficulties of communication have added to the difficulty of getting the estimate together. The main point is that the disaster is of such an unusual character that it is beyond the financial ability of either the province or the municipalities to bear, and they are making their plea for special consideration in the circumstances on the ground that it is an abnormal situation.

For instance, when the municipalities and the government make their surveys of the water flow through valleys and coulees, they construct their bridges on the basis of the engineering figures which show the average flow. They build their bridges a little above the average flow. When a disaster such as this occurs many millions of dollars worth of valuable and expensive construction is wiped out. Under these conditions we suggest that it is at least equal to the disasters which occurred in British Columbia and in Manitoba, and therefore we request that this be declared a disaster area.

The first essential is that some assistance be given toward flood control and the management of the areas where the flooding exists. The importance of the situation can be understood when it is appreciated that unless the flood waters now covering millions of acres of land are removed this year, it will be impossible for those farmers to sow any crop next year. The situation is not only important this year; it is a matter of concern to them even next year. It is on that basis that we think assistance should be given. Surely the federal government can see that it is in the national interest that those areas should be allowed to produce.

The people of the west are celebrating their golden jubilee this year. The people who inhabit the western provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta overcame tremendous difficulties. They went in there 50 years ago as pioneers, not knowing the difficulties and the problems they were to face in breaking new land. They knew nothing of the hard winters and the blizzards they were going to face, and the difficulties of establishing themselves. There were no records of what the country would produce. Any records there were indicated that no one would ever produce wheat in that area, anyway.

However, they went there and they pioneered. They faced difficulties. They are the kind of people who can face difficulties. In fact, I think one of the things that has established the fine character of the people out there is that they learned to work together,

Floods in Western Canada they learned to help one another in adversity. By helping one another they have overcome their difficulties, and they have built the country that is there. It will take more than a flood to defeat those people. They merely ask that, in co-operation with their fellow Canadians, some assistance be given. They believe assistance should be made available to take care of unusual and abnormal expenditures that will be required as a result of this flood.

Reports coming to my desk already indicate that many farmers have been unable to go to town, to the shopping centres. Hundreds of bridges have been wiped out. Many of these people are going to be isolated on their farms unless they can get to town on horseback, or by some other means of transportation. With such a situation existing, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that it is Canada's responsibility to recognize its seriousness not only immediately but also with respect to the crop for next year.

They will find the government of that province willing to co-operate in every way to assist them in assessing the situation. The provincial government has undertaken surveys which will cover most of the areas affected, but it is utterly impossible for the provincial government or the municipal government to stand the costs of flood control and the drainage problems that face them at this time. I think it is only fair and just that assistance should be given. I feel sure the Canadian people would give their support to assistance to their fellow Canadians in a situation such as this.

Reports that have come to me in the last three days indicate that the situation started to ease somewhat in that area, but rains have begun to fall and the situation at this time is particularly grim. I point out to hon. members who are not familiar with the situation that the seeding of the wheat crop in that country in the good years usually starts around April and is completed around the middle of May. In the average seeding area of the province they like to have their crop in around May 15. Good crops have been put in as late as the beginning of June. These are usually coarse grain crops. Some parts of the western provinces have already seeded, but for about 40 per cent of the wheat farmers of that province there will be no wheat crop this year. They will be very fortunate if they are able to seed a coarse grain crop after the first week in June and harvest it this year; but for many thousands-

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Defence Production; Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Liberal

Mr. Howe (Port Arthur):

May I ask a

question? Did I understand the hon. member to say that only 60 per cent of the wheat

Floods in Western Canada crop will be seeded this year? I believe he said 40 per cent of the crop will not be seeded.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Caslleden:

It is estimated that 40 per cent of the wheat acreage in the eastern part of Saskatchewan will not be seeded this year.

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Defence Production; Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Liberal

Mr. Howe (Pori Arthur):

What does the hon. member consider to be the eastern part?

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Casileden:

The eastern half of the

province.

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Defence Production; Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Liberal

Mr. Howe (Pori Arthur):

That means 20 per cent of the acreage will not be seeded?

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Casileden:

I said that 40 per cent would not be sown to wheat.

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Defence Production; Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Liberal

Mr. Howe (Pori Arthur):

Twenty per cent of the whole province?

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Casileden:

Well, that would be approximately it, but there are larger areas in the west.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

The hon. member is really speaking only of the area north of Moose Mountain.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Casileden:

If the minister looks at the map which he says he has he will see that the area south of the main line of the C.P.R., even down in the Moose Mountain area, clean through to the Tisdale area and the Hudson Bay area in the north, is affected.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. Gardiner:

The map presented to the government yesterday showed the area as north of Moose Mountain.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. Casileden:

I shall be glad to have the minister's remarks on it, because I think the hon. member for Qu'Appelle will inform him that those large areas south of the Qu'Appelle river are very seriously affected, and certainly the Moose Mountain area as well. I cannot hear what the minister is saying. I shall be pleased to hear more from him on the matter.

I point out to the house that the next two weeks will be the critical period for the people in that area. The problem that exists, and the matter with which they are particularly ^ concerned at the moment, is that of draining the excessive moisture off the land so that with the weather's co-operation next year they will be able to put in a crop. I am pleading with the government at this time to look at the situation in a sympathetic way. I presume they have already had their representatives out to assist the provincial government in a proper assessment of the situation, and that action will be taken equivalent to the needs of the people of that province.

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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

The hon. member for Comox-Alberni.

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May 17, 1955