February 16, 1955 (22nd Parliament, 2nd Session)


Herbert Wilfred Herridge

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

Mr. H. W. Herridge (Kootenay West) moved:

That, in the opinion of this house, the government should consider the advisability of calling a dominion-provincial conference on conservation with a view to the establishment of a national policy on soil, forest and water conservation and land use for Canada.
He said: Mr. Speaker, in 1952, 1953 and 1954 I moved a motion identical with the one which I am moving today. In view of my own conviction and belief that action along the lines I suggest is urgently needed, I return to the fray with undiminished ardour in the knowledge that there is growing support for this resolution, not only in this house but in the country, growing support for the calling of a dominion-provincial conference such as that which I suggest to deal with this extremely important question.
Before proceeding, Mr. Speaker, I should like to say that, in my opinion, the question of conservation of natural resources is not a partisan problem. It is a problem that concerns us all in this house and all in the country, regardless of our political or economic theories. In my opinion conservation offers ample scope for the application of public ownership, co-operative ownership, private ownership and private enterprise. I therefore judge, Mr. Speaker, that in discussing this question we are meeting it as Canadians facing a question that must be dealt with in the very near future if we are to arrest some of the erosion and loss of natural resources that are going on today.
While in recent years provincial governments and the federal government have given effect to some measures designed to heal the scars in our land caused by the exploitation of our natural resources over a period of many years, in my opinion the pace is too slow and the actions of governments are too unco-ordinated and too unrelated to meet the situation effectively.
In previous discussions on this question I dealt at some length with the historical aspects of the problem of conservation and outlined in detail some proposals I put before the house concerning the objectives for a sound national conservation policy, and it is

not my intention to repeat those arguments today. My argument today will be directed principally to three points. The first is that many years ago there was a recognition in this house of a measure of responsibility by this parliament for conservation as a national problem. The second is that because of the success that has resulted from federal and state co-operation in the United States, experience clearly teaches us that dominion-provincial co-operation would bring much greater results than have the activities in this field by federal and provincial governments to date. My third point is that if we are to spend the sums of money that will be required to develop a national conservation policy, before spending that money efficiently and satisfactorily we certainly require a federal-provincial conference to lay down a national policy accepted across Canada.
I have taken the opportunity to discuss this question with a large number of people who are interested in the problem. Last year it was my privilege to attend the public conference called by the Canadian Forestry Association in association with the Agricultural Institute of Canada and the Engineering Institute of Canada for the purpose of restating a long-range policy for the management of our renewable natural resources. At that conference I repeatedly heard the opinion expressed that we are moving too slowly in the direction of the conservation and development of our natural resources and in the development of policies to meet the situation effectively. While governments may continue to pay lip service to the principles involved in conservation, their actions are too limited and often too unrelated, in my opinion, to turn the tide of continued exploitation and neglect.
I might say in passing, Mr. Speaker, that I was sorry there were not more provincial cabinet ministers at that conference. It was a conference that was called at considerable expense and it was well organized. But as far as I can remember, there were only one or two members of provincial cabinets present at that conference. I realize the difficulty inherent in this question. While I say that this parliament and the federal government have a responsibility in the matter of conservation of natural resources, for the calling of a conference and so on, I know that we cannot get effective action unless we get cooperation from the provinces in this respect. I recognize the difficulties that are entailed.
While it is repeatedly brought to our attention when dealing with this subject that the provinces have control of their natural resources, a reading of the debates of this house years ago indicates to me that parliament and

both old-time parties in this house have recognized the fact that the federal government has some responsibility with respect to a national conservation policy. In support of that contention, Mr. Speaker, I want to bring to the attention of the house the fact that on February 1, 1909, the late Sir Robert Borden moved the following resolution in this house:
That In the opinion of this house it is advisable to appoint a select standing committee on natural resources who shall have authority to inquire into and consider and report upon all matters appertaining to the conservation and development of the natural resources of Canada, including fisheries, forests, mines, minerals, waterways and water powers, and to whom may be referred from time to time any report, document or matter touching the subject which they are appointed to consider.
I think the introduction of that resolution into this house by such an important gentleman as the late Sir Robert Borden who was then leader of the opposition indicates the recognition that some responsibility rests with this parliament and the federal government for the consideration of conservation on a national basis.
When speaking in this debate Sir Robert Borden had this to say. I quote from column 356 of Hansard of the session of 1909:
We have had a great many stimulating addresses throughout the country on the importance of these great resources. One might expect that the parliament of Canada would be one of the great forces in awakening public interest in our resources, and the consideration of means by which the development and conservation of these resources should be carried out.
Then later on in his speech Sir Robert Borden said:
So, while men everywhere in Canada are lifting up their voices for the conservation and development of our natural resources, it seems to me that some initiative should come from parliament, and that the members of parliament, without regard to party, sinking for this purpose all partisan considerations, should take up this work and endeavour to accomplish something for the good of the country.
In my opinion we should all be able to endorse the words spoken by the late Sir Robert Borden on that occasion. 1 certainly believe that we should expect the parliament of Canada to be one of the great forces in awakening public interest in our resources in this country.
Then later on in the same debate the then prime minister, the late Sir Wilfrid Laurier, rose to express his support for the principle of the motion in the following words which are found at column 371 of Hansard of the same date:
I am happy to say that I have no word of dissent to express regarding the principle involved in my hon. friend's motion.
By that it will be seen that Sir Wilfrid Laurier quite agreed that this parliament
should appoint a committee-which was later appointed-to consider the question of resources on a national basis in Canada.
To illustrate further the necessity for cooperation between federal and provincial governments in the matter of conservation, in further support of my argument I wish to quote from a message to congress by the president of the United States in 1909 when referring to the work done by the national conservation commission in the United States. I might say that it seems, from reference to the record, that there was a great surge of interest in the early days of this century in the question of conservation not only in Canada but in the United States; but since that time there has been a great lag, a great deal of inertia and a great lack of interest on the part of this parliament and succeeding federal governments.
This is what the president of the United States on that occasion had to say in part:
The principle of the community of interest among all our people in the great natural resources runs through the report of the national conservation commission and the proceedings of the joint conference.
These resources, which form the common basis of our welfare, can be wisely developed, rightly used, and prudently conserved only by the common action of all the people acting through their representatives in state and nation. Hence, the fundamental necessity for co-operation. Without it we shall accomplish but little and that little badly.
That has been our experience in Canada. In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, because of the lack of co-operation between the federal and provincial governments with respect to the pressing problem of conservation, we have accomplished but little and in many respects that little badly. As the result of the interest in parliament and in the country at that time an act was passed by the house in 1909 to establish a commission for the conservation of natural resources, and by an order in council of September 3, 1909, a national commission was appointed. There was a different attitude to the whole question in 1909 from what we find today in the government and in the house. It is evident from reading the reports of the commission-I have read them through completely and they are well worth studying-that the commission made a very comprehensive study and review of the whole situation with respect to renewable natural resources in Canada. Unfortunately it was abolished by an act of parliament in 1921, and since that time successive governments have dealt with the problem of conservation on a piecemeal basis.
A tremendous amount of material and information were gathered by that commission, and in my opinion a great deal of the good

work that the commission did was wasted by the dropping of the question by the government of the day. I wish to quote from the Globe and Mail of Saturday, March 13, 1954, an article entitled "Ottawa's Conservation Help Niggardly" by J. Bascom St. John. I quote it because it is an excellent article which deals with this subject with knowledge and clarity and is most informative. Out of respect for the person who wrote the article I think I should quote it rather than paraphrase it. I like to give credit to those who express their ideas in such a clear and excellent manner. The article reads in part as follows:
No comparison of Canadian and American government expenditures produces more dramatic contrasts than those on conservation. The two governments take completely different views of the matter. The United States spends lavishly on a widely varied program. This has been a fundamental element of its national policy since 1908.
That is the reason for the success of the conservation programs in the United States. I continue:
The Canadian government, on the other hand, has no discernible policy on conservation. It does spend money for this purpose, but its activities are largely determined by political factors, and in almost all cases are on a project basis. In nearly every instance, comparable expenditures by another authority are required.
I am not underestimating our efforts. There has been a great deal of good done by various federal government agencies but in my opinion their efforts have been too piecemeal and too unrelated to provincial programs. The writer goes on to say:
Canada's failure to pursue a consistent national policy on conservation is all the more strange in that 45 years ago this country was in the forefront of the conservation movement. In 1907 a commission of conservation was set up under the chairmanship of the Hon. Sir Clifford Sifton, and included a large number of representative Canadians. The commission's function was chiefly fact-finding and research. It pursued an active publication policy, and while it functioned, conservation and related matters such as town planning were kept strongly before the public. In this writer's view, a great mistake was made when the commission was abolished in 1921.
I agree with the writer. I think it was a backward step to abolish that commission in 1921. I quote one more short paragraph:
The Canadian government sometimes suggests that it has no specific obligation to support conservation because natural resources were made a provincial responsibility by the British North America Act. The projects it does accept it claims to regard as having "national interest". So far as can be judged by the record, this is a somewhat capricious standard. But since virtually all the taxable wealth of the country derives from natural resources it is clear the dominion government on its own terms has a primary interest in maintaining and developing them at the most productive level possible. If anything is a national obligation to the present and future generations, this is.
[Mr. Herridge.l
I want to make a few comparisons between what has been spent on over-all conservation policies by the governments of the United States and Canada. In 1953 the government of Canada spent approximately $30 million on what could be termed conservation projects. Just think of it-six-tenths of 1 per cent of the national budget in that year. I am going to compare this expenditure with the amounts spent by the United States government in the same year.
The United States government spent $1,122 million on the conservation of land and water resources in 1953. In the same year it spent $107 million for the conservation of forest resources. It spent for fish and wildlife resources $34 million in the same year and for the survey of various other resources $25 million. In addition, the production and marketing division of the United States department of agriculture spent $308 million on various projects of conservation development, and the soil conservation service spent another $66 million for conservation projects.
In total the United States government spent in one year on conservation programs more than $2 billion. I wish to point out that if a Canadian government spent in proportion to its population and national wealth it would spend about $180 million on conservation projects this year. In fairness I must recognize the fact that the United States is forced to spend considerably more in proportion to the expenditure in Canada on the conservation of natural resources as the process of exploitation and destruction of natural resources in the United States, because it is an older country, is much further advanced than it is in Canada.
However, Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe that with a national conservation policy established as the result of co-operation between the federal and provincial governments we could well afford to spend five times the amount we are spending at the present time. As I said before, I have no hesitation in paying tribute to the good work done to date by the federal and provincial governments and by some sectors of private industry. There are certain industries in the country, particularly certain sections of the lumber industry, strangely enough, that are leading the way in the practice of conservation policies. I pay tribute to their efforts and also to the work done by such organizations as the Canadian Forestry Association, the Agricultural Institute of Canada, the Engineering Institute of Canada, a multitude of other organizations and many individuals who have been interested in the problem of conservation for a long time.

However, there is increasing evidence that the provinces and interested organizations and individuals are coming more and more to recognize the need for a national conservation policy with some leadership on the part of the federal government. The experience of the United States is in my opinion conclusive proof of the beneficial effects of cooperation between federal and provincial or state governments in this field. In the light of their experience I think we would be well advised to proceed along the lines I suggest.
Under our constitutional circumstances the role of the federal government must necessarily be that of a co-ordinating agency willing to supplement the efforts of the individual provinces when necessary from the national treasury in order to give effect to a national policy on conservation. The relationship between the federal government and the provinces calls for a dominion-provincial conference on this question with sound planning, good will and a determination to succeed. I say again that this conference is necessary to decide on a major policy with respect to conservation in Canada before you can satisfactorily expend money in the development of any policy.
I am not taking a great deal of time today because I know there are a number of other members who want to have something to say on this question. Before concluding I want to quote from an address given by Mr. F. H. Kortright, president of the conservation council of Ontario, at a meeting held in Ottawa on November 22, 1954, at a preview of the film known as "Proud Land" which was sponsored by the Agricultural Institute of Canada. Mr. Kortright has taken a great interest in this question throughout the years, and in a very few sentences I believe he gives expression to what is a common sentiment across this country at this time. This is what he had to say, in part, in concluding his remarks:
Yet it is to government that we must turn for leadership in conservation action, if we are to enjoy, to the full, long-lasting abundance from natural resources.
In this wonderful Canada of ours, still a land of comparative plenty, there is no reason why, given the will to do so, we could not become a nation dedicated to the conservation and wise use of renewable natural resources. This could be a national project for the spiritual, moral and physical well-being of the people of this land, and, by example, for all other people of the world.
This is not a starry-eyed notion. It is not an impractical idea. But it implies leadership. Our federal and provincial governments have an opportunity today that they will not have 50, or even 25 years hence.
Any government announcing such a national policy, publicizing the facts which dictate it to be necessary policy, and giving continued leadership, 50433-77
would be performing a service of supreme importance, not only to Canada, but to mankind. . . No policy would do more for the national economy of Canada. No policy would give greater assurance for the well-being of our children and grandchildren.
I feel that Mr. Kortright has expressed the sentiments of the members of this house in excellent language and in excellent form. I said when I rose that I was returning to the fray with ardour and continued hope. My hopes were not only further stimulated because of the great interest in this subject in the house and in the country, but by the fact we have a very alive, alert and active Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources (Mr. Lesage). Last fall he made a trip into British Columbia and I can assure him that a number of the people with whom I have talked were very pleased in having him visit the province and were pleased with his keen interest in the problem of natural resources.
I am very optimistic, as a result of the introduction of this new blood into the department, that we shall possibly make some progress with this resolution in the near future. I urge the government to translate its awareness of this problem into effective action by calling a dominion-provincial conference with a view to the establishment of a national policy on soil, forest, water conservation and land use for Canada.
In conclusion, in our opinion, the overriding interests of the nation and the immediate interests of the provinces must be harmonized by some action along these lines if we are to conserve and develop our renewable natural resources to the advantage of this and future generations.

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