Mr. ROSS (Souris):
First of all I want to concur in all that has been said by various members from British Columbia, because I can assure hon. members that in parts of the prairie provinces we have gone through the very same thing this past spring. Not only has there been danger of loss of life; a dozen lives have actually been lost through flooding in the prairie provinces. Many hundreds of people have lost their homes. This has been going on for nearly two months; and now in northern Manitoba, in The Pas area, the same thing is happening as happened in British Columbia; many hundreds of people there have lost their all, their life savings. They have no place in which to live. It is a serious business.
As the previous speaker, the hon. member for Kootenay East, has just said, this has been an abnormal season. In our part of the country we did not have ordinary winter thaws. We had heavy snowfalls, then extremely heavy rains taking the snow away, and the run-offs could not handle the water.
Apart from the serious business of the loss of life that has occurred and the many more lives that are in danger, many who make their livelihood on farms will lose their entire year's operations this year. They will have no income whatever. While we think we have been fortunate in having had the P.F.R.A. and P.F.A.A. in the prairie provinces, the regulations under those two measures will not take care of many of the people who have lost everything owing to flooding.
I want to pay a compliment to the minister of National Defence. The troops under him helped a great deal, as was so well described by the hon. member for Portage la Prairie a while ago, in connection with flooding from the Assiniboine river. The troops worked night and day, and we cannot thank them too much. They have rendered splendid service wherever they have happened to be stationed in western Canada. This flooding business is certainly a national disaster, affecting as it does thousands
of people west of the great lakes, right through to the western coast. It is a serious source of trouble.
I know, as the minister has said, that under our governmental set-up these matters are first the duty of the municipality; in turn, when the municipality cannot settle them, they must go to the province; and the province in turn goes to the federal government. But this is truly a national emergency. The people in some parts of Manitoba have probably been more accustomed to this sort of thing, on the Red river and on the Assiniboine, and out on the Souris where I have been, and you have not seen anything about it in the press. Many farmers in my constituency will not seed an acre this year and have not an acre of pasture for their cattle. They are losing their only opportunity to make any revenue for the entire year; therefore we are facing disaster which will require federal assistance. That of course we can discuss at the appropriate time.
To deal for a moment with the resolution which is before the committee, I should like to raise a question before the minister replies. The resolution reads:
That it is expedient to present a bill to assist the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in the reclamation and development of marshlands in the said provinces by the construction and reconstruction of works necessary therefor and the purchase of . required machinery and equipment. Works may be undertaken only on the recommendation of an advisory committee to be established under the act and upon terms and conditions agreed upon with the province concerned prior to the first day of May, nineteen hundred and fifty-five. The Minister of Agriculture is empowered to appoint necessary temporary officers and employees to be paid out of the consolidated revenue fund with provision also for the payment of expenses of members of the advisory committees.
To me that seems exactly the same as the duties and objects set out in the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act, with which I have had some experience. For the past two years I have had on the order paper the following resolution:
That in the opinion of this house the government should take into consideration the advisability of expanding the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act into a national soil conservation and farm rehabilitation act and extending its activities to all the settled farm areas of Canada.
The point I want to make is that we have this administration already set up. As I read the resolution the bill will call for exactly the same kind of work and the same kind of advisory committees. It is true that some added personnel would be required, including persons who are conversant with that particular area; but I should like to know why it is necessary
Reclamation oj Marshlands
to bring in a new bill instead of amending the existing act to take advantage of the administration already organized. It seems to me that would be far more efficient.
For some sessions now various members from the maritimes, including the hon. member for Cumberland, the hon. member for Colchester-Hants, the hon. member for Saint John-Albert and others, have been pressing the government to do something about the reclamation of these marshlands, and I am sure those hon. members will have much to say on this measure. When the minister speaks, however, I should like him to tell us why it would not be more efficient to deal with this matter by amending the act already on our statute book and making use of the experienced and efficient men who are in charge of that organization, instead of setting up a new administration which will require a complete new staff, new equipment, and so on.
Subtopic: RECLAMATION AND DEVELOPMENT-ASSISTANCE TO MARITIME PROVINCES