May 28, 1948 (20th Parliament, 4th Session)


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
Reclamation oj Marshlands

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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