February 12, 1937 (18th Parliament, 2nd Session)

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

This sixty million acres is-
. . . about two-fifths of the total land area of the province, extends from the international boundary to township 48, and includes practically all of the settled agricultural land in the province. Further soil survey work in Saskatchewan will consist of reconnaissance surveys in the northern part of the province, and detailed surveys of problem areas in the south.
In Alberta, it is stated, they have already surveyed 921,600 acres located in. townships 1 to 8, in ranges 1 to 5, west of the fourth meridian.
In this work special attention is being given to blowout and drifting areas.
Then follows a report on the economic survey-all under the provisions of this act:
A comprehensive study of land utilization in Saskatchewan and Alberta is being conducted as a part of the prairie farm rehabilitation program by the economics branch of the Department of Agriculture with the cooperation of the department of farm management of the university of Saskatchewan and the provincial department of agriculture in Alberta.
Passing on, we find a complete report on water development and hygrometric survey in the western provinces, and, at page 21, a summary of the expenditures that were made for these purposes. The appendix is another important part of the report. It shows the progress of water development under the supplementary Public Works Construction Act of 1935 for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1936, and' the various projects are dealt with in detail, including the expenditure that was made in connection with the Canada land irrigation project. But the important point is that this work has been carried on-
. . . Under the appropriation that was made under the Public Works Construction Act of 1935 and under the terms of the supplementary Public Works Construction Act, 1935-item 6, western conservation works-the sum of $500,000 was made available for the construction of water development projects in the prairie
provinces. This sum is being used in the
construction of large agricultural water development projects in the drought areas as part of the rehabilitation program while small water development projects are cared for under the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act. Engineering services for both large and small projects are provided for under the latter act. Administration of this fund is through the water development committee under the dominion experimental farms of the Department of Agriculture.
Then there is a report on the progress of water development work in 1935, and a statement with regard to the large schemes dealt with:
Community irrigation projects:
Val Marie irrigation project, Sask.
Eastend irrigation project, Sask.
Wild Horse storage dam, Alta.
Middle Creek storage reservoir, Sask.
Community water storage projects:
Souris dam, Man.
Crystal City dam, Man.
Rural municipality of Edward, Man.
Drainage projects:
Municipality of Lajord reclamation project, Sask.
Rehabilitation of existing projects:
Eastern irrigation district, Alta.
Canada Land and Irrigation Company, Alta.
Water development projects for 1936.
Adams Lake dam, Sask.
Wood River storage dams, Sask. [DOT]
Red Deer experimental gas well, Alta.
Details follow as to the works done with respect to each of these, and, finally, a statement of cost. That report, as I say, was tabled by the minister under the provisions of the act, and it brings us only to March 31, 1936. Since that time nearly a year has passed, and, as the report indicates, much work that was then in progress was to be continued during the year 1936; so that I assume, for the purposes of my observations, that the work has been carried forward. I therefore suggest that the inevitable conclusion at which one must arrive is that the act has been found satisfactory, otherwise these vast undertakings would not have been carried out. Consequently there must be some good reason why, by statute, we are abolishing this advisory committee, and that reason I have not yet received. I asked yesterday whether some reason could be given, and I had in mind an amendment which 1 might have suggested, though I knew that if I proposed an amendment it would be simply courting and inviting its rejection. I merely suggest, however, that the existing section should stand and that there should be added a second section which would provide for the setting up of local committees and associations. But that can be done under the section that deals with regulations, and it has been done. Here is the report of the minister, who does

Farm Rehabilitation Act

not suggest a single difficulty in the operation of the act-not one. Nor does anyone else make any such suggestion in writing. Mr. Vallance does not offer a report complaining of inefficiency, nor does any one else complain of the inadequacy of the act. We have, therefore, an act that brings its operations to the end of March, 1936, indicating that it has been highly successful and that operations have been carried on with respect to every matter that is mentioned in it. I therefore suggest that the proper course would have been to leave the advisory committee alone-because, if it is found unsatisfactory, the minister can abolish it by order in council-and to add another section to provide for the appointment, if the minister so desires, of local committees charged with responsibility for matters in connection with local associations, agricultural and otherwise. But I need only point out, in answer to that, that they have already functioned under this act, that the regulatory power is broad enough to permit of this; and I have taken all the time I have in dealing with this matter for one reason and one reason only. I am not personally concerned about it, but I am vitally concerned that there should not be created in this country a body of public opinion that looks upon this effort as one that is political in character. I speak feelingly because the late government set it up. The late government initiated the statute and we appointed as chairman a gentleman who was charged with responsibility for the administration of the experimental farm at Swift Current, a man who was out of active politics. We placed in authority one who, at least, would carry the confidence of all those who were concerned.
It might well be desired, so far as the advisory committee is concerned, to improve or alter the personnel; it might be desired to amplify it in many ways. I am not concerned about that. But clear it is, on that report which was tabled the day after the house opened, Friday, and coming from the Minister of Agriculture, that up to March 31, 1936, a variety of operations had been carried on under the act, and I think it would satisfy most of us that it was better than had been suggested. But, mark you, the change in chairmanship from the manager of the experimental farm at Swift Current to Mr. Vallance has not been calculated to improve public confidence in the undertaking, andi it is not calculated to inspire confidence on the part of the people of eastern Canada who will have to provide largely the money which the minister asks for. It will not enhance in their minds the disinterestedness of this legislation, which, for some reason that has not been given us, abolishes the advisory

board, whose report is there without complaint from the minister, and substitutes by way of amendment sections providing for smaller committees-though in that respect I offer not the slightest objection if the minister thinks they are desirable. But one would have thought, when this report was prepared, that there would be some indication that there had been a failure of power on the part of those charged with responsibility, or that there had been inadequacy of authority, or that there had been some other want that had to be supplied by legislation. Nothing of the sort appears, however; and, stripped of everything, the bill that is now before the house is one that wipes out of existence the advisory committee and, as amended, authorizes the continuance of an advisory committee and the appointment of local committees-something that has been done during the last fifteen or eighteen months. And persumably it was done under the regulatory section; for, as I explained yesterday, the act was drawn in the most comprehensive and general terms because it was deemed inadvisable to particularize having regard to conditions existing in western Canada, inasmuch as that would be greatly detrimental to the efficiency of the act. The largest power of expansion was therefore provided for by regulation and otherwise; and this report, whatever else may be said about it, is a complete vindication of the character of the work under the provisions of the statute.
I had hoped that possibly the minister might be content to leave the advisory committee as it is, having power as he has to change it by order in council if he so desires, and to add to his bill a section providing for the appointment of additional committees from time to time if that were desirable. As to the suggestion of permanency of policy and continuity and stability, I am quite content with any language that may be employed for that purpose which expresses the idea indicated by the Minister of Finance yesterday, namely, that as projects are studied and their cost estimated the governor in council couldi appropriate out of the sums which have been provided for that purpose sufficient money to enable these named projects to be carried forward to completion.
If anyone, Mr. Chairman, supposes it is an easy thing to stand up and talk about this matter for the length of time I have, and that it is done merely for the purpose of talking, he is greatly mistaken. I desire to assure this committee that I have only one object in doing so. Having gone to western Canada some forty years ago last month, and being vitally concerned in everything that

Farm Rehabilitation Act
affects the welfare of the people who will live there long after I am gone, I have made these suggestions because I feel that this is a retrograde movement, rendering less efficient something which has been proven by the minister's own report to be highly efficient; and what is more I regret that it indicates an atmosphere, a tendency that I should like to see avoided. And I hope hon. members will believe me when I say that when we had to appoint a chairman they can have no conception of the number of people who would have liked to be appointed; for there are Vallances in all parties. But the man who was appointed was in the public service, one who according to the report of the minister, having to do with a demonstration farm, was the best suited and fitted to do that work. We therefore avoided any political aspect, although I am afraid we displeased greatly men who felt that they had claims. They were not then defeated candidates, nor had they been in the last House of Commons, but they had qualifications equal to those of the gentleman who how presides over this organization. I had hoped it would not be necessary to put a violent partisan into this position. I can speak with some degree of feeling about it, because we took steps to avoid doing it, and having taken those steps naturally I regret the course which has been taken in connection with this matter. I cannot usefully say anything more in respect to it; the government has the power to pass this legislation. But I want placed upon Hansard the names of the advisory committee, in order that there may be some understanding of what is meant by the minister when he says in the opening paragraph of his report that he was assisted by an advisory committee appointed by order in council comprising representatives of farming, ranching, financial and railway interests in the affected areas, as well as officials of governments of the dominion and of the provinces concerned. Just who they are who are now to be deprived of these non-remunerative but highly serviceable positions I think should be placed upon Hansard.

Topic:   PRAIRIE FARM REHABILITATION ACT
Full View