Mr. Laureat Maliais (Saguenay):
Mr. Speaker, it was not my intention to speak about Bill C-94, to provide for the establishment of an Atlantic development board, but since several members who have already spoken on this matter mentioned the area I represent, namely the Saguenay district, I feel bound to make a few comments.
Mr. Speaker, the bill now under discussion provides for the establishment of another board to study the Atlantic area which includes, according to some hon. members, the maritime provinces, Newfoundland and the ridings of Saguenay and of the Gaspe peninsula.
I should like to point out, first of all, that there are already in the areas mentioned of the province of Quebec, two bodies concerned with regional economic studies, namely the
lower St. Lawrence economic council and the gulf and lower St. Lawrence development organization, which perform at present the same duties as the board proposed in the bill now under consideration.
Mr. Speaker, I am not against the establishment of such a board to serve the district that I represent; I am all for it. But, although I agree with the principle of the bill, I cannot accept it in its present wording.
It is proposed to create a five member board, only the chairman of which will be paid $3,000 a year.
Mr. Speaker, if we consider the region that this council will serve, from an economic as well as a geographical standpoint, we realize that it will not be able to be effective, since its means are limited. In my opinion, what should be established is an economic council which would include those who already exist and which would have a budget enabling it to offer adequate salaries to its officials, its chairman, secretary and any other, in order to cover that territory. Because with $3,000, no one would succeed in covering even half of it.
Now, Mr. Speaker, while I am in favour of the principle of the bill, I do not agree with its substance, and, on third reading, I might have amendments to submit to make it more efficient.
If the Saguenay, lower St. Lawrence and Gaspe areas are incorporated in the bill, changes which have not been considered by the hon. members will have to be made to the work program of the board.
In the first place, there is the matter of a bridge across the Saguenay river. There lies the greatest obstacle to the development of the north shore. Everybody is of the opinion that such a bridge would cost $25 million. Then, there is the urgent need of a highway between the Saguenay area and Blanc Sablon. Such a road should go straight to Newfoundland by means of a causeway across the strait of Belle Isle.
At the present time, Mr. Speaker, the development of the north shore is hampered by the lack of communication between the areas. The highway does not go beyond Sept lies and there is another 600 miles to Blanc Sablon, the point nearest to Newfoundland.
It is essential that this board be able to take effective steps to have a road built in co-operation with the Department of National Defence because such a road would be
Atlantic Development Board used for the defence of North America since it would serve the whole eastern part of the province of Quebec.
The causeway to link Blanc Sablon to Newfoundland, advocated by a professor at the agricultural school of St. Anne de la Pocatiere, would improve the climate in the province of Quebec, for as he said, experts have found that if that causeway were built, the temperature would gain a few degrees, which would be an asset for agriculture since the farming season could begin earlier and last longer, particularly in the Gaspe peninsula and on the north shore.
Another undertaking that should be added to the program of that board is the construction of a railway between La Malbaie and Sept lies. At the present time, there is no railway linking that region to the rest of the province.
Mr. Speaker, it might be said in reply that water transportation is cheaper than rail transportation, but it has been proven that railways stimulate the development of underdeveloped regions.
In my opinion, the government must recognize the principle that communications must exist before economic development can be achieved, and that it is not the other way around. The government has to take the necessary action with regard to communications in that region of the province.
Some kind of planning is required within the government itself. I do not know if that is socialism, but as a start there should be planning of the government itself, planning of the activities of the various departments, in the same way as we are trying to plan the economic development of this country.
Governmental activities have always followed the economic development in a given area. The government is forced by companies to establish means of communications, once the industries themselves are established. Both provincial and federal governments are forced to establish communications, so that industries can remain in touch with the rest of the province.
That is the first kind of planning the government should establish. I must say here that we have before us now a government which is trying to set up what I would describe as mitigated planning. It wants to plan and, at the same time, it doesn't want to; it is in favour of the principles of planning without actually planning.
Atlantic Development Board
I should prefer a government which would say exactly what it has in mind. We could then mount a frontal attack against it.
As the hon. member for Burnaby-Coquitlam (Mr. Douglas) said this afternoon, there are four commissions whose functions are overlapping, while it would be much better to have only one which would direct its activities where they could be the most effective.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, I had not prepared myself for a long speech. I do not want to delay the proceedings of the house, but I should like to say that I endorse the principle of the bill. However, I may take the liberty of introducing an amendment on third reading.
Topic: ATLANTIC DEVELOPMENT BOARD
Subtopic: PROVISION FOR DEFINITION OF DUTIES, APPOINTMENT OF MEMBERS, ETC.