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


James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)



It was stated conservatively in our geographies at forty-two feet, although I would suppose that at some point or another the figure of sixty feet would be correct. In any event, forty-two feet is a very high tide; and a rise of sixty feet, as has been suggested by the senior hon. member for Halifax, is a considerable rise indeed. Hon. members will realize what this means, and that it is different from the matter about which we had been talking this afternoon. This is not something that happens once in every fifty years or in every ten years; it happens twice a day. The water rises under the tide twice a day, and this goes on year in and year out.

Reclamation oj Marshlands
A long time ago, in the first instance when the area was ruled over by the French, the French government thought this important enough to conserve these lands from the sea, the lands on the fiats which are flooded every time the tide comes up. The French put their armed forces and others to work at building dikes alongside these marshlands to prevent the rising of the water from flooding twice a day these very lands.
A hundred years ago the British had gained control of that area. It will be kept in mind that in both instances it was not the federal government which acted; rather it was imperial governments a long distance away from the work, governments across the ocean. But they took sufficient interest in the matter to see that these dikes were built. First it was the French and later the British.
The dikes were built. We like to pride ourselves upon our engineering skill today; but the engineers of that time built those dikes so soundly that they gave very little trouble over a long period of years. The aboiteaux built to control the going-out and coming-in of the water, with the assistance of some maintenance on the part of either local bodies or the provinces, since the confederation of the provinces, have remained intact, and have given good service. For some reason which I shall not discuss at the moment, agriculture was not paying as well in the maritime provinces in more recent years as it had been in the earlier period, and there was not the same care taken of these high producing pasture lands, nor was the same care taken of the dikes themselves. The result was that some of these dikes became damaged and the seawater began again to come in over these flats which are capable of producing great amounts of fodder.
As an indication of just how much they can produce, let me point out that we took over a small acreage of it alongside our experimental farm, and have been operating it since the first year I was in the government. The area was taken over in the year previous, although the experimental work had not been begun when I took office. I went to the maritime provinces, looked at the area, and the surrounding area, and decided that the work should proceed. I have been back there since to see the plot of land taken over. On one side of the road we find a condition today where a certain amount of fodder such as alfalfa or other hay is produced, while right across the road on the plot which has been properly handled under experimental conditions we find three times as much being produced from each acre.
This gives some indication of the possibilities in the area by way of increasing production through the proper handling of these lands. Long arguments have gone on as to whose responsibility it would be to make the necessary improvements. I have been convinced from the beginning that it did not make any difference whose responsibility it was, that no government short of the national government could do any considerable part of the work that had to be done. If it were to be done at all it had to be done on the same basis as the French did it in the first place and as the British did later on; it had to be directed and partly financed by some central authority and put into shape where the local people could handle it.
In the past the dikes were there, and the practice that was followed w7as to have provincial legislation under which the land behind the dikes could be managed and under which certain levies could be made in order to cover the cost of maintenance. This is administered in very much the same way as what has been done in connection with drainage in provinces across Canada.
The bill to be founded on the resolution provides for the federal government building or rebuilding or reconstructing the dikes. We think it is better that there be a division of authority rather than there be a division of funds; that there be a division of responsibility rather than that there be a division of funds. We will go ahead and do a certain job and then the province will do a certain job. Then those who will have benefits from the land will do something further, to be provided for under provincial legislation.
The job we have taken upon ourselves to do is that of reconstructing the dikes to keep out the sea. When we have completed that job we hope that there will be no possibility- if there is a possibility we may have to do something further with regard to it-of the sea getting in to damage these lands. Then the province undertakes under the legislation to do certain works behind the dikes. There may have to be some negotiation when we get down to the final determination of what is to be done by one or the other, as to just where the one stops and the other starts, but what each is responsible for is pretty clearly written into the legislation and we can discuss the details when the bill is before the house.
So far as the federal government is concerned, the total expenditures in connection with the 80,000 acres referred to a few moments ago by the senior hon. member for
Reclamation of Marshlands

Halifax will be S3,210,000. This is made up as follows:
30 miles new dikes at $10,000 a mile $ 300,000 70 miles heavy reinforcing dikes at
$6,000' a mile 420,000
200 miles medium and light reinforcing dikes at $2,500 a mile 500,000
10 very large aboiteaux at $30,000
each 300,000
20 large aboiteaux at $30,000 each . . 600,000
35 medium size aboiteaux at $6,000
each 210,000
200 small aboiteaux at $1,000 each .. 200,000200 breakwaters at $700 each
140,00080,000 acres, surveys and plans at 50 cents per acre
Those are the expenditures under division No. 1. Then division No. 2 covers the expenditures to be made by the provinces. The estimated cost to construct, straighten, dig or clean laterals, sub-laterals and dale ditches in 80,000 acres of dikelands and marshlands and to clean larger drainage ditches or canals is $4,230,000, made up as follows:
50 miles large canals at $10,000 a
mile $ 500,000
130 miles large creeks at $5,000 a
mile 650,000
120 miles of laterals at $4,000 a mile 480,000
GOO miles of sub-laterals at $2,000 a
mile 1,200,000
7,000 miles of dale ditches at $200 a mile 1,400,000
Total $4,230,000
Expenditures under division No. 3 are to be undertaken by the dikeland owners. The
80,000 acres are to be replowed, limed, fertilized and reseeded at $18 per acre, or a total of $1,440,000. Those are the estimated figures at the moment. The works referred to a few moments ago by the senior hon. member for Halifax as being temporary were started in 1944-45 and consisted simply of patching up holes in the dikes and that kind of thing. There was nothing permanent about it. The federal government have spent on such activities in 1944-45, 1945-46, 1946-47 and 1947-48 a total of $207,601.33. These works will be continued during this year. The activities under the bill which I intend to bring before the house will start with the next season.
It is estimated that it will take anywhere from five to ten years to do the work, depending upon how much we are able to accomplish each year. In their proposals the provinces suggest that it should take nine or ten years, but we are hopeful that the work for which we are responsible can be done in a much shorter period. We think the most important thing to do now is to

keep the water out. When we have spent the amount which is required to cover the federal government's responsibility in connection with the dikes, it will then be possible for other work to be carried on by the provinces behind the dikes. If the province desires to take a longer period of time or if those interested in the land desire to take a longer period, it will be most helpful to them if our work is carried out in a shorter space of time.
In answering the hon. member for Souris who asked whether this bill would be similar to the P.F.R.A., I would say that it will not be similar. This bill covers just the one thing. So far as we are concerned, it covers the building of the dikes. That will be done by the federal government and the staff required will be an engineering staff.
I presume the advisory committee will be much the same committee as we have had for a number of years. The chairman of that committee is the superintendent of the experimental farm in Nova Scotia and he has a number of others associated with him. These men have studied the question fully and have made reports from time to time. I presume it will be that committee, or some variation of it, that will function in connection with the whole activity.
I should like to get the bill before the house as soon as possible. I may say to those who are concerned about my getting away that I am not going away for a week. Nobody needs to be in any hurry about my going away. I shall go away when the time comes whether the legislation is through or not. There is nothing involved in my going or staying in so far as the legislation or my estimates are concerned. It is simply a question of getting along as rapidly as we can with the ordinary business of the house. Even if my estimates and this bill are through, I shall probably be here until about a week from today or a week from yesterday, so that we can go on discussing these matters to the satisfaction of all wrho are here.
However I think we could accomplish more and get greater satisfaction out of the discussion if hon. members would put me in a position as soon as possible to get the bill into their hands and that can be done right after this resolution is passed.

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