Mr. G. W. Baldwin (Peace River):
Last Friday, Mr. Speaker, I was attempting to relate what the Minister of Finance had said about the projected expansion of this country under this government to the question of railroad construction in the north country. I was making fairly heavy weather with my French when fortunately I was interrupted by Your Honour at five o'clock.
Before going any further, I should like to give briefly some of the background to this question of railroad construction in the north country. I am doing this because from what I know, confirmed by an examination of the records railroad development in the Peace river country has been a sorry record of neglect, delays, frustrations and broken promises. It is quite obvious that one injustice has been done to the people of the Peace river country, and I hope to see that another is not committed as well.
The Peace river country is not part of the western prairies, nor is it part of the true north, but a connecting link between the two. Many of the people who went overland to the Yukon came through the Peace river country. The first white man to cross this continent came down from the north along the Peace and wintered close to the town of Peace River, then went on the next spring to the Pacific coast. I refer to Sir Alexander Mackenzie. I know these things, sir, because from my home, four miles from the town of Peace River, I can see the hill known as Mackenzie lookout, in the shadow of which Mackenzie built his fort. Along the
The Budget-Mr. Baldwin trail past my home went the people who travelled to the Yukon. There is a further grim reminder, possibly, that this area forms the natural gateway to the north in the fact that recently teams of archaeologists have been seeking in our country some confirmation of the fact that countless generations ago people crossed the Bering strait from Asia and so came into the centre of this continent.
In earlier times the large railway companies could or would never accept the fact that our country constituted a natural road to the north, both from the centre of the continent and from the west coast. It was necessary for the province of Alberta to construct railways into the area.
The province, of course, was limited by its boundaries and financial resources, but all during the 1920's there was a constant effort made to persuade the government of Canada and the railway companies to construct an outlet to the Pacific coast and also to build toward the Northwest Territories.
I have been able to find a great number of references to this, particularly in the speeches made by the late Mr. D. M. Kennedy, who was the member for Peace River from 1921 to 1935. He was supported by such members from British Columbia as General Clark, Hon. Harry Stevens, Senator McRae and John Fraser. These men were amongst those who had sufficient foresight to understand the necessity for the construction of this outlet.
I should like to continue, however, with regard to these promises by referring to a statement made by the then prime minister, Mr. Mackenzie King, speaking in Edmonton. The reference is contained in Hansard for 1926-27, page 2214:
"It is the policy of the government of which I have the honour to be the head to introduce a vigorous policy of immigration which will people the vast areas of undeveloped country in the great west," declared the Right Hon. W. L. Mackenzie King, premier of Canada, when addressing a mass meeting of the citizens in the First Presbyterian church last night.
The future prosperity of this country is bound up in the development of its great natural resources, and to develop these resources it is necessary to have a large increase in the population of Canada. There is to the north of this city a great tract of land that is crying out for development. The Peace river country is amongst the richest in Canada, but before the proper development of that country can take place an outlet to the Pacific coast is an absolute necessity. I pledge myself that as soon as it is humanly possible the great Peace river country will be given that measure of railway relief that will bring to the pioneers of that country the outlet they have been so long denied, and will open up the country for prospective settlers.
"The times that we are passing through are very difficult, and I would ask you to have a little patience, and in as short a time as possible, a railway outlet will be provided for the Peace river
1512 HOUSE OF
The Budget-Mr. Baldwin and northern Alberta districts that will open up an era of prosperity for that country which will not be equalled by any other province in Canada."
However, this was an election speech; and since it was a promise made before an election I examined the speech from the throne of the following year with some care. I had to look through it twice before I found any mention of the Peace river, and then I found this promise had shrunk to this insignificant statement; "that in due course steps would be taken to further colonization and settlement in other fertile regions such as Peace river". This was as far as the matter went. This is typical of the treatment given to the people of that area in so far as this allimportant question of railroads is concerned.
Now, as a matter of fact some survey parties were sent out, and they came back muttering about tonnage, population and economics. At that time we had only
20.000 people. Our railway tonnage was
110.000 tons going out of the country and
50.000 tons going in.
I recognize that we cannot be starry-eyed and visionary about this question of railroad construction, but I submit that railroads and their construction should be regarded as an instrument of national policy. They were considered in that way by the people who made this country, and I feel that the same consideration should be given today. If Sir John A. Macdonald and the people who constructed the C.P.R. had stopped to confer with hordes of chair-borne statisticians the C.P.R. would never have been constructed. Western Canada would still probably be a vast hunting ground for the buffalo or, more likely than that, we would have fewer provinces in Canada and there would be more stars in the United States flag.
In 1929 the Alberta government sold its railroad system to a statutory corporation created by the government of Canada. What was known as the Northern Alberta Railways was created, comprised of equal ownership by the C.N.R. and the C.P.R. By the statute of incorporation this railroad, the N.A.R., was authorized to commence construction of and given authority to build a railway to the Northwest Territories. The statute is chapter 48 of the 1929 statute. There is one particular part of the schedule I should like to read into the record because I think it has some bearing on what I propose to say. This new statutory corporation was authorized to lay out, construct, maintain and operate-
*-a branch line from a point at or near Grimshaw in a generally northerly direction to a point that will when surveyed approximate to a point in township one hundred and eleven, range nineteen or twenty, west of the fifth principal meridian,
thence in a generally northerly direction approximately parallel to the Hay river to the northern boundary of the said province.
That is precisely the route which we in the Peace river country advocate today. It follows precisely the same route which we advocate today on the question of this railroad which has been projected to Great Slave lake.
Considerable exception was taken in the house at that time by those who were interested and had some knowledge of the situation to the way the N.A.R. was formed. They said the creation of a statutory corporation of that kind comprising equality of ownership by the two great railway companies which were actually competitive was not a good thing for Peace river. Actually that is the way it turned out, because not one mile of railroad was ever built in furtherance of the suggestions made in 1929 when that corporation was created. It was actually left for the province of British Columbia to build this coast outlet, which it did when the P.G.E. was eventually completed into the Peace river country; and only a few days ago I understand the first train from the coast came up and across the Peace river at Taylor Flats in British Columbia.
The excuse of the major railway companies was that they did not think there was sufficient tonnage or population. I recall Sir Edward Beatty in Peace River saying that just as soon as our production was ten million bushels of grain, that would justify a coast outlet. Later on he was speaking in Edmonton, and I have here a quotation of his that was given in this house by Mr. J. A. Sissons, who was the member for Peace River from 1935 to 1940. Sir Edward Beatty then said what all of us knew to be correct:
That north country needs a settlement plan and needs it quickly, and together with that there should be a program of rail development.
The Peace River district impressed me most favourably. But its one major need still is that of increased settlement. I am confident that the country could absorb at least twice the population it now bears.
I certainly intend to suggest to the federal government that it embark on a broad policy of settlement for the north. Extension of rail facilities to go hand in hand with colonization. That is something that should be axiomatic.
We have reached and far surpassed all the figures that have been suggested with regard to population, tonnage and crop production. Our crop production is many times that which Sir Edward Beatty had in mind. Our population is four times that which existed at the time former prime minister Mackenzie King made his statement in Edmonton. Our tonnage going out is ten times that which it was in 1924. That argument no longer should serve as an excuse.
As a matter of fact I think we have ample confirmation of the truth of the statements our people had made earlier. As a result-and I think it is no accident that the two matters that have come to pass are linked together-of the projection of the P.G.E. to the Peace river country in the last two years, we have seen the beginnings of industrialization and growth. In the small southwest area of the Peace river country comprising part of my constituency and part of that of the hon. member for Cariboo (Mr. Henderson) there are a large plywood plant, two oil refineries and the beginnings of a petrochemical industry probably running into $30 million or $40 million and ultimately two or three times that much.
That has come about, I submit, as a result of the fact that at long last the coast outlet was brought to Peace river. I hold no brief for Premier Bennett, but I think it is only proper to pay tribute to him for the industry, initiative and intelligence he has exercised in directing that railroad into our country. I can only assume that it was because of the years he had spent as a member of the Conservative party that he acquired those characteristics.
We now face the question or the problem of constructing a railroad into the Northwest Territories. In that regard I should like to refer to a statement by Hon. Charles Dunning, who was minister of railways in the King administration. It was truly a pertinent one. This is what he said during those debates which took place in 1929 on this bill creating the Northern Alberta Railway. Speaking about this railroad into the Northwest Territories he said:
I believe I shall live to see the day when there will be a railhead on Great Slave lake tapping the resources of that great northern area.
This indicates what was intended at that time; and having in mind the countless numbers of people who went in there on the basis of promises of that kind, I submit it should be considered when we now come to deal with this question of a railroad into the north country.
Quite recently the government of Alberta established a royal commission known as the McGregor commission to inquire into the development of northern Alberta, which by the terms of reference was defined as being that part of Alberta lying to the north of the 55th parallel of north latitude. This commission has made a very extensive survey and I commend it to hon. members in so far as facts and statistics are concerned, though I must say I disagree very violently with some of the conclusions derived from these facts.
Included in these statistics is information relative to undeveloped agricultural area,
The Budget-Mr. Baldwin including certain territory which the commission designates as arable and other lands which are said to be possibly arable. I checked the figures with my own personal knowledge derived from almost 30 years' residence in that country and continuous travel through all parts of it, and I agree with their views which give a maximum of 14 million acres of undeveloped agricultural land with a potential production running into some $600 million to $700 million a year.
Certainly there is no doubt that here is the last great source of undeveloped agricultural country on the North American continent. I do not like cliches, yet the phrase "great inland empire" I think could nowhere be better applied than to this particular country. But empires, like all living organisms, must have nourishment and this empire was in grave danger of destruction, of dying stillborn because of lack of transportation facilities.
Following along the Peace river, the Northern Alberta Railways and up to the Northwest Territories, are people who for many, many years have struggled against tremendous odds to try to maintain themselves in that country. I say to the hon. members of this house, particularly those who come from agricultural constituencies, think of the problems of these people who have to pay 40 cents to 50 cents a bushel for wheat in order to bring it down to the railhead, $10 a head for cattle, $3 for other stock and so on. These are extreme examples, of course, and as you approach closer to the railroad the figures become somewhat less.
There is also the reverse side of the coin, and we must consider that everything which goes into that country requires an extra toll from the people because of the cost of transportation. We have every problem and every difficulty faced by people in other parts of Canada, but we also have this immense difficulty with respect to transportation owing to the great distances involved. On the economic scale there was slowly but surely being poured into the balance, the weight of these figures and if we had continued under the methods established by the previous administration there could have been but one inevitable result, stagnation and ultimate extinction.
That is why the people of my part of the country were so glad to hear of the program of national development planned by the Conservative party, as national development of course to us means primarily northern development. We were glad to hear of the construction of a railroad to the south shore of Great Slave lake, and to learn that we had not waited in vain for this railroad which, provided it commences at or near Grimshaw
1514 HOUSE OF
The Budget-Mr. Baldwin and goes through the Peace river country, will bring many obvious benefits to us.
I would like to mention the mineral production of the Pine Point area of the Great Slave lake region which, since it could reach the market at a cost which would make it competitive, would be a great step forward; but this is only the beginning, and there are many other tremendous considerations. The Northwest Territories would have the advantage of obtaining food supplied from an area comparatively close at hand which would substantially reduce the cost of living. The farmers providing these supplies would have a corresponding advantage by being able to increase their sales, and the new and expanding secondary industries of our country would find their markets increasing in both area and population.
The orthodox development of oil and gas would favour the route through the Peace river country, that is to say through the western part of northern Alberta. The figures given to the McGregor commission by the oil and gas conservation board of Alberta show as a minimum that 8,000 wells will be drilled by 1980 in the area affected by this railroad, at which time there should be an annual production of 62 million barrels of oil and 230 billion cubic feet of natural gas. This is a controlled production based on market requirements, and there are very interesting tables on pages 59 and 60 of the McGregor report with regard to this aspect of development.
The proposed route would serve 90 per cent of the people of northern Alberta, including those living on the British Columbia side of the Peace river, which provides the largest concentration of people and thus potential labour north of the 55th parallel in Canada, which I must say contrasts quite pitifully with what is believed to exist in the same latitudes in Russia. There is an excellent forestry potential with respect to both timber and pulp, and there are also first class hydro power facilities in the area to be served. The cost of construction would be reasonable, since there are no bridges of any consequence nor are there any substantial grades. Finally, having in mind the diversity of potential production, the railway would not be exclusively dependent on minerals which, being non-recurring resources, often cause the abandonment of railways and of towns.
The McGregor report recommended an alternative route. If this should be adopted, which I hope it will not be, I am quite certain many of the pioneer farmers of our country may well give up the struggle, which would result in a large exodus from some areas. I have recently been receiving an
average of 50 to 75 letters a day with respect to this matter, many from people I know personally as pioneers of the area, all urging me, as I hope they have urged the members of the government, to take these things into consideration when a decision is reached with respect to the route to be adopted when building this railway.
These people, and there are thousands of them, have held on grimly and tenaciously Dver the years in the face of considerable obstacles. They have cleared their lands, built homes and become good farmers- which they had to do in order to exist at all-and have also become good citizens. They have raised and educated their families, expanding the perimeter of civilization. So far they have done all this without too much help from government sources. They know nothing of national housing and very little of unemployment insurance benefits. For many of them some of the ordinary assistance available to agricultural producers has also been lacking. Even the benefits under the Can. Farm Loan Act have only recently been extended to some of the northern regions, and then only to a limited area close to the railroad. Despite these disadvantages, however, they have always held before them the hope that some day, somehow, at the end of the rainbow, there would be the construction of a railroad.
Many of us, of course, knew that a realistic appraisal of the national and world situation, so far as agricultural commodities are concerned, would make it difficult to justify, and indeed that it might be found impossible to construct that railroad having in mind only the agricultural aspects of the matter. We did however feel, as we still feel, that an additional incentive has now been provided by the further discoveries of minerals in and around the Great Slave lake area. We believe, therefore, that when the railroad is built it should be built through the Peace river country. We should not and we must not abandon these people. They must not be content to be second class citizens if they wish to remain in their country, or to have only one alternative, namely to give up their homes and everything for which they have struggled and move elsewhere.
If we permit them to leave behind them everything they have built up we shall be abdicating our responsibilities and failing in our duties. I suggest this railway is a fair test of what lies ahead in respect of northern development. Are we to consider human resources as being of paramount importance? Do we want to fill the country with people or are people to be subservient to the privilege and interests of those concerned in exploita-
tion? We are confident that the Conservative party, with its history and traditions-and this government has expressed its views by actions and utterances in recent months-will recognize our position and will appreciate that railroads exist to serve the people and not people to serve the railroads.
We have been told that a highway may be constructed as a substitute for this railway, that is to say a rebuilding and extension of the Mackenzie highway which now runs over 400 miles from Grimshaw to the port of Hay River on Great Slave lake. We welcome the fact that we now have this indication of the firm intention of this government to thus develop the northland, but I say this is not an alternative for our agricultural producers, who simply cannot develop farming communities at a distance of 40 miles or more from railway facilities.
As a matter of fact I am being a little optimistic when I say 40 miles, for I have in my hand a volume entitled "The Settlement of the Peace River Country", which was written by Professor C. A. Dawson, professor of sociology at McGill University, and Professor R. W. Murchie, professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota.
Their position as a whole strengthens mine. Here is what they have to say:
In the older settlements of the prairie provinces there are few farms more than 10 miles from the railway. Productivity fades before the twentieth mile from the railway is reached; beyond that it declines with great rapidity.
The McGregor report states that the need to stimulate agriculture in the north country remains open to question, and I assume that other people may entertain the same opinion; but if so they are not taking the long range view, as I propose to point out later. In any event I want to say that our agricultural economy is largely becoming, and will be even more in the future, one of mixed and diversified farming tailored to help us sustain our role as supplier of the Northwest Territories, as well as being geared to the exigencies of the larger world picture. Our people are realists, and the Peace river country has the necessary requirements so far as land is concerned to go into the type of production which will find and is finding markets, and we are turning away from the commodities which are surplus.
Such being the case, is it not a far better thing to do what is necessary to quicken the stirring of new life by opening this country, by establishing the many communities which will provide the necessary services along the new railroad through the country to Great Slave lake, than to accept the defeatist and narrowly pragmatic attitude which is inherent in this other type of thinking?
The Budget-Mr. Baldwin
I believe that the appointed purpose of this land is that it should be made available for the many, a home for all who wish to come; and there will be many who will wish to do that. Any railroad construction and any development which aims at a lesser result is an abuse of the trust we have had bestowed upon us. "Without vision the people will perish" surely applies here, and this government has a vested interest in that phrase.
At this point I want to make it absolutely clear that anything I have said is not meant to suggest that the railroad should be built through the Peace river country without regard to the proper and natural aspirations and the development of the eastern half of northern Alberta. As and when, and that time may well be now, the economic development of that area and the requirements of Canada as a whole justify railway branch lines or highway construction or navigation improvement, then by all means they should be undertaken. But I submit as strongly as I possibly can that at the present time a branch line to the north which disregards the logical needs, and fails to give effect to the long held prayers and hopes, of the people of the Peace river country is wrong.
It has been said that the sole responsibility for providing communication to these people in our country rests with the provincial government, and I admit that it is a responsibility which Alberta must share, having in mind that the Northern Alberta Railways was originally constructed and operated by the province of Alberta. However, I would point out that most of the settlement came into the north country from 1912 to 1935, and that prior to the passage of the statute which implemented the agreement for the transfer of natural resources from Canada to Alberta in 1934, Canada alone had control of the land settlement. The homestead and land officers were those of the senior government, and the people who went into this northern area were encouraged to do so by the Canadian government. So the responsibility should be shared jointly among the province of Alberta, the federal government and the railway company.
Certainly the statement made by Mr. Dunning to which I referred previously with regard to this line to the north was accepted by many who went in there as a firm indication of the government's intention, and I know as a fact that many people who went into the north country did so because they honestly believed that this line would be built and that it was the intention of the government and of the railways to proceed with it. Certainly the department of northern affairs felt that way in 1956, because they presented a brief to the Gordon commission. On page
1516 HOUSE OF
The Budget-Mr. Baldwin 24 of the brief there was a map-I believe it was submitted by Mr. R. G. Robertson, commissioner of the Northwest Territories- which shows this railroad projected into the Great Slave lake area, and it shows it starting from Grimshaw. On page 29 of this report on the economic prospects of the Northwest Territories I find this:
A railway to Great Slave lake will not be just another railway. It is not a railway to a lake or to open a mine or to serve a community. A railway to Great Slave lake will be one of the great development railroads of the country. It will not bring population to the Northwest Territories to the same extent that the western railroads brought it to the prairies; but it may well bring in the years ahead a comparable increase in the wealth of Canada. This railway is quite different from most of the branch lines constructed in recent years which were destined to serve one mine, or a group of mines; its purpose is to open up a whole new region.
What I have said so far may be construed as being on a purely limited and local basis, but I submit that examined against the larger background of the national interest the answer comes out precisely the same. A branch line from Grimshaw to Great Slave lake would permit agricultural and other products from the northern and the Peace river country to seek their natural markets. We hold no brief for or against any particular area, but we wish to encourage our products to flow to the Pacific coast or to the east as economics may dictate.
Topic: THE BUDGET
Subtopic: ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE