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


Thomas John Bentley

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


I think it is proper that someone from the prairies should say something on this resolution. I suppose someone may accuse me of supporting this measure simply because it affects the province of my birth. I am glad to do so on that account, of course, but that is not the main reason. We in the west have felt for many years that it was necessary to have some assistance to carry us over places where water was scarce, because we believe that the production of foodstuffs is an extremely important thing both for our nation and for the world at large. We have
Reclamation of Marshlands

been given some measure of relief for some years by P.F.R.A., which has done excellent work in the Palliser triangle, and we hope, of course, that much more will be done. It does not make much difference whether the land is submerged under water or has not enough water, for in neither case does it produce the foodstuffs it could. I 'believe that the people of the west generally will welcome the extension of this assistance, although it is not called P.F.R.A., and obviously it could not be, to the maritime provinces, because the result will be to bring more land under cultivation.
I remember some of that section of the country pretty well. One member has said that the people who owned these lands have permitted the dikes to get into a condition of disrepair. I do not believe we should go back into history to place the blame on any particular person, because you cannot alter the facts anyway after you have found out who was responsible. The fact remains that there were times when it was utterly impossible for the owners of the land and the province itself to do the maintenance and reconstruction work that was necessary, and which will be necessary, as the minister says, to bring this land back into cultivation. Whatever errors were made in the past, the thing now is to see that the necessary corrections are made, and I agree with the minister and others who have spoken that this government should take the lead. When that is done, undoubtedly there will be quite a number of people occupying these lands who will be new settlers, probably young farmers, and they will no doubt get encouragement to go ahead and do their part in building and maintenance to make this possible. This will all add to the productive power of Canada and will be of great help to the maritime provinces in rebuilding their industries there, which they regard as their right. It is a pity that more of the same thing could not be done in connection with other industries in order to make them as productive as we all know they can be.
The early part of the debate this afternoon was taken up with a discussion of conditions in the Fraser valley. In a way, I felt let down to think that while the lives of people, and a tremendous amount of personal and public property, were in danger, there should be any discussion whatever over questions of jurisdiction on the part of governmental bodies. When there is such a crisis it should be dealt with as rapidly as possible by whoever has the means to deal with it, and then the responsibility could be assessed afterwards if necessary.

After all, if someone pushes a baby into the river, the first thing that anyone who is able to rescue it will do is to get the baby out, and then find the person responsible and take whatever action may be necessary to prevent his doing the same thing again.
I think the hon. member for Fraser Valley has brought up a question which is of importance not only to that part of the country but to all of us; and the government here, being the strongest in Canada, should take immediate, active and efficient steps to do whatever should be done.
I appreciate what the Minister of Public Works, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of National Defence have said they are doing. One minister has had his deputy out there for the last two days and no doubt he has been assisting in the work. The Minister of Agriculture has officials in the locality, and if one of them is the person I have in mind he will give a tremendous amount of impetus to the work there. But he cannot do anything without the necessary machinery and manpower. The Minister of National Defence has his engineers on the job. But that is not enough. This afternoon the newspapers indicate that something more rapid should take place.

Full View