February 27, 1956 (22nd Parliament, 3rd Session)


William Marvin Howe

Progressive Conservative

Mr. W. M. Howe (Wellingion-Huron):

should like to commend the hon. member for Kootenay West for once again bringing this question to the attention of this house and of the people of Canada, by means of his resolution that the government should consider the advisability of calling a dominion-provincial conference on conservation, with the view to the establishment of a nationwide policy on soil, forest and water conservation and land use for Canada.
As the hon. member for York Centre was speaking, I was thinking of his own resolution not so long ago on education. In the discussion on that, the bugbear of dominion-provincial relations was brought up, and indications were that this was trampling on the field of the provinces. In the case of education and scholarships, the fact that none were given at certain levels meant that Canada was the loser, because it lost thus many of the brains that it needed. But in the case of conservation we have a problem in which we have a second chance. In the main we are dealing with renewable resources, built up by mother nature in this country over many years-trees, soil, rivers and so forth. Man has been destroying many of the things that mother nature took so long to build. But, as I say, we have a second chance, by carrying out a scheme such, as is proposed in this resolution.
One of the particular reasons why I am interested in this question of conservation is that in my own riding of Wellington-Huron, as an editorial in the Fergus News Record indicates, in the spring of 1957 will be completed one of the greatest conservation schemes that has been developed in this whole dominion. That is the Grand river conservation scheme. That scheme is part of history. As far back as 1905 an engineer named William Breithaupt in the city then named Berlin took time to walk up and down the banks of the Grand river. Even in those days when there were not so many people living there, he found a picture of erosion. Trees, trunks and soil were taken away and the banks scoured to the rock on that river, because of the fact that there was a rushing current
during the spring and summer months. Later on, he found the stream shrunk to a very small rivulet which was polluted with sewage and so forth from all the cities that were established along that river. He decided to see if he could interest people in building some type of conservation scheme on this river. The original plan was for five dams. In 1939 the first dam was built above the town of Fergus-this was called the Shand dam, not too far from the village of Belwood. A few years later another dam was built at the headwaters of the river and was called the Luther dam. When the final dam is built on the Conestogo a conservation scheme will have been developed that will prevent terrific flooding in the spring with the crushing weight of water and ice that does so much damage and it will also establish and maintain a flow of water throughout the entire season.
At this time I should like to pay tribute to those spirited citizens in that district who, with very little monetary return to themselves, have carried through this project to a successful conclusion, who have not stopped working and who are turning their time and energies to building up once again the banks of that river as they were many years ago before all the trees and shrubs were taken away. They are making it once again a thing of beauty. They are developing parks, building beaches around the lakes and, what is probably more important than ever, they are establishing tree farms up and down the Grand river valley.
I bring this matter to the attention of the house because, as I say, it is a pattern that might be followed in other parts of Canada. I maintain that if it had been followed along the Humber river valley the terrible catastrophe that followed "Hurricane Hazel" would not have been possible. Along many other rivers that night there were thousands of dollars' worth of damage. The flooding along the Nottawasaga river in southwestern Ontario that night resulted in over $500,000 damage done to bridges and culverts. With this pattern of damage and destruction, would it not be better to spend money on preventive measures so that the raising of disaster funds would not be necessary and municipalities and governments at all levels would not be called upon to assist in reinstating people, reconstructing buildings and moving them to other localities?
As I say, great tribute is due these people who have done so much to carry out this wonderful work. I might say also that their work has been of an economic nature, particularly in southern Ontario, something we did not expect. I have here an article from

the January issue of Bush News entitled, "Security for Future Seen in Tree Farms." The article reads in part as follows:
Ontario now has 17 tree farms as a result of the certification of 11 woodlots in the Grand valley district of southern Ontario December 28. The woodlots, totalling 423 acres, were officially certified as tree farms at a ceremony in Galt, sponsored by the Huron district tree farm committee and the Grand valley conservation authority.
During the ceremony, James A. Vance, P.Eng., of Woodstock, chairman of the Canadian forestry association of Ontario and guest speaker, announced there now was a direct market in southern Ontario for pulpwood from the tree farms. He said the Ontario Paper Company which operates its giant mill at Thorold is planning to purchase 10,000 cords of pulpwood in the southern Ontario area next year. . . . He added that Canada's history was largely determined by trees. There were more than 4,000 uses for wood in daily life today. It goes into lumber, pulp, rayon, cellulose and plastic. The tonnage of wood used in world war II was greater than the tonnage of steel.
As the hon. member for Kootenay West (Mr. Herridge) indicated, there are very many organizations which are taking an interest in this question, and in that regard I should like to refer to the policy declarations and resolutions of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce for 1953-54 and 1955-56. Under the heading "Water and Energy Resources" they have this to say in their 1955-56 policy declarations and resolutions:
The chamber urges the development of a program for the establishment of a national policy for the control, conservation and development of water resources for multiple purposes on which all interests can unite and on which a maximum of local and provincial autonomy is assured.
It is also rather interesting to note that some of our younger people are interested in this question. In the Globe and Mail of March 8, 1955, there is an article containing the following:
Katharine Merry, 17, of Milton, a member of the Halton 4-H beef calf club and 1954 winner of the Queen's guineas at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, said one-fifth of the original crop land of Canada has already been destroyed by improper agricultural methods and that more is being destroyed every day.
As this would indicate, Mr. Speaker, the question of conservation is bigger than just the holding back of the waters in our river valleys. We must consider the reasons that are contributing to the excessive flooding. We are all familiar enough with the history of this country to realize that when our forefathers came here it was pretty well all covered with forests but that in order to provide for food and crops for their way of life it was necessary for them to cut down the forests indiscriminately. This practice went on to a great extent. It was followed in our country in the same way as it has been all over the world with no thought being

taken for tomorrow. As an ancient Chinese philosopher once said: "If a man take no thought for what is distant he will find sorrow near at hand."
The history of the world indicates that soil erosion is part and parcel of the history of mankind. Great empires have risen only to fall because of the loss of their topsoil. The great Sahara desert, over which Rommel made his advances and retreats during the last great war, was at one time the granary of the Roman empire. Irrigation works were damaged by war. Vegetation disappeared, blowing sand and subsoil covered whole cities and the work of seven centuries was lost in less than 100 years.
We find the same pattern in Mesopotamia, Italy and China. However, we do not have to go back that far in history. In many cases our own handling of this particular matter has proved that we too are guilty of forgetting the fundamentals necessary for the protection of that very valuable asset, our topsoil. There are many districts in southern Ontario which at one time supported whole communities and which are now pictures of dilapidated and broken down buildings and eroded soil. The people have been forced to move because through improper methods of land use the land would no longer provide a livelihood for them and their families.
In the United States we have the tragedy of the dust bowl that occurred in the states of Kansas, Texas and southern Oklahoma where, in a period of excessive drought and in a region with the striking paradox of productivity and erosion, the topsoil that was left exposed began to drift and blow. In fact, on one occasion the sky over New York city was darkened by the dust from that dust bowl in those southwestern states of the United States. We sometimes say that that happened back in 1934. I do not know how many members read the Globe and Mail this morning, but in it there is a picture with the heading at the top, "Red Dust from Texas Blows into Windsor Area." It can happen again. Periodically we read that there is still danger of the same thing happening in our own western provinces as happened back in the thirties with the blowing of the soil.
In China we find an example of the two extremes. In northern China there is the Gobi desert, a vast barren land where nothing can grow. In central China there is the Chengtu plain where for 1,500 years intensive agriculture has been practised by following proper conservation, irrigation and soil protection methods. We too must realize the importance of a national policy of conservation of our renewable resources, a national policy which gives us a comprehensive picture right across the whole country.

We might take a leaf from the book of some of the countries that have joined the Colombo plan organization. Last summer there was completed by Pakistan-one of the countries that we consider to be a have not country-an aerial survey of their whole country. From this survey, together with the work of a ground crew, there has been worked out a comprehensive plan, just as we have mentioned here in our resolution, so that in the reclamation and the setting up of their country, in using these funds for technical assistance, they will not go at it in a haphazard way but will have a co-ordinated plan that will be followed right through in their entire country. I understand that Ceylon is doing the same thing.
I can see no reason why we in Canada could not have an aerial survey of that type. The other day I noticed a description of a new type of machine for reading the threedimensional camera which would give us a better picture and a better perspective of the means necessary to prevent the type of thing about which I am speaking. As was stated by the hon. member for Kootenay West (Mr. Herridge), many people are trying to bring this matter to the attention of this country of ours. In the London Free Press of recent date there appeared an item which was headed "Too much population; Professor broods on war from hunger" and which reads in part as follows;
A gloomy forecast of a hungry, overpopulated world, with nations possibly waging war to safeguard their food supplies, was placed before a section of the Royal Society of Canada . . .
The forecast was made by Professor D. A. Mac-Gibbon of the department of political economy, McMaster University, in a paper on the threat of overpopulation.
The professor concludes his remarks with these words;
He felt that the greatest possibility of delaying an actual global crisis in food supplies for some decades at least, lay in scientific progress and in the resolute employment of methods of conservation.
Speaking about things that are being done to decrease the number of acres of land we have, may I say that the practice that is being followed in some parts of southern Ontario is, in my opinion, wrong. I refer to the taking over by great industries of that wonderfully productive fruit and vegetable land in southern Ontario, something which man can never replace, something which it has taken years and years to build up and develop. Industry can grow and develop on land that would not be as suitable for the growing of fruit and vegetables. I think that practice is wrong and one that should be changed. General Smuts once said that erosion is the biggest question before the country, bigger than any
politics. As I said, time is of the essence. Old mother nature does not stand still but she gives us a second chance to renew these resources which we have depleted. I feel that there should be a definite policy of conservation on a national level to promote systems of farm practice, tree culture, water supply and land settlement that will promote greater economic security for our dominion.

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