Mr. A. D. McRAE (Vancouver North):
Mr. Speaker, I propose to take up but a very short time this afternoon in support of the amendment. Many of us in the house felt that when the resolution of the hon. mem-
Natural Resources-Mr. McRae
ber for Frontenac-Addington (Mr. Edwards) was unanimously adopted by the house on the 18th of last month, this question of the natural resources of the provinces had been pretty well settled. The speech, however, of the right hon. the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) on Thursday evening, followed by this debate, would lead one to believe that our western provinces are yet a long way from getting their resources.
Reviewing tersely that part of the debate, we find that Manitoba had practically consummated its agreement with the government, that Alberta was also in agreement, and that the province of Saskatchewan is now negotiating its case. It would seem that the government might implement the wishes of this house and give early effect to that settlement which we all desire.
The right hon. the Prime Minister spoke the other evening about dividing east and west over this amendment. I have only this comment to make: the great prairie provinces, it would appear, have been very patient and forbearing, and their breaking with the east will depend on how long the government is going to take to give them control of their resources. Parliament has decided the issue, and it seems to me that the matter rests with the government. While I am not familiar with the technicalities of parliamentary procedure, I am quite sure that if this matter was dealt with on a business basis, a final settlement, which is largely a matter of accounting, could be arrived at with very little loss of time.
There are one or two points which have not been considered in this debate to which I would like to draw the attention of hon. members. Eliminating the question of the resources of the western provinces, it would appear that this amendment involves the matter of navigation in our navigable rivers, and the administration of water-powers beyond the boundaries of our provinces. Few, I think, will disagree with the need for protecting the national interests so far as navigation is concerned, and no body is so competent to pass on the national interest as this parliament. I noticed in the Ottawa Citizen this morning a statement that the government proposed to make an announcement on the Beauharnois project some time to-day. It would be very interesting to the members of this house, Mr. Speaker, and very pertinent to this debate, if that statement were before us now. I am not all familiar with the Beauharnois power project, but I am to some extent familiar with the St. Lawrence development, which has been before this government and the country for several years now, and on
which we have expended a large sum of money for the purpose of making an investigation and bringing in a report. If the Beauharnois development does not interfere in any way with the St. Lawrence development, in connection with which our government has already advanced to a final stage, if it does not involve the diversion of the water dealt with and included in the report of the engineers on the St. Lawrence development, then I do not see that nationally we are concerned about it. But on the other hand, if it does not make for the economic development of the entire project as submitted by the engineers, then I think this government and this parliament is vitally concerned in the matter, and we should have before us in considering this resolution the information which it is stated in the press will soon be submitted to the house.
With regard to the water-powers beyond the boundaries of our provinces, there I approach a matter that I know something about. Few of us can appreciate the magnitude of our water-powers beyond our provincial boundaries in our great north country. To get a correct appreciation of their magnitude, you have to go down some of these gigantic rivers and see the numerous falls and rapids that you have to pass as you go along. It is evident that in our estimates of power in our great north, only the big and cheaply developed powers are taken into account. In almost every case there are innumerable sites where smaller developments would have already taken place had those sites been close to centres of population. I think it is a safe statement to make-it is difficult to contradict, at any rate-that the power in our northern country beyond the boundaries of our present provinces is at least twice our present estimates. Those powers cannot be developed to-day on account of the cost and the loss in transmission. There is a demand for the power, but it is too far away for commercial development. But viewing the great advances in electrical science in the past twenty years, particularly in the last ten years, with the marvelous development of radio, who is to say that we are not approaching the time when this power will be available for use in our present centres of population, and perhaps even further afield? I have in mind a statement made last spring by Mr. Isaacs of the British Marconi Company. He stated that his company was experimenting with the transmission of electric power through the ether, and he had sanguine hopes of success crowning their work, in which case the electric power generated on the North American continent
Natural Resources-Mr. McRae
would be available for Great Britain. That may seem rather farfetched, Mr. Speaker, but wo do know that during the past few years experimenters in the United States have succeeded in transmitting power for a few hundred feet without the use of a connecting wire. I have no hesitation in saying that I am firmly convinced, as are many men much better qualified to pass an opinion, that by a beam system or some other means, probably a cheap lead wire, not only will the cost of transmission be greatly reduced, but also the loss in transmission will be largely eliminated.
That leads me, Mr. Speaker, to a calculation of the national revenue that would result from the development of these great powers with which a generous Providence has endowed us. Owned and operated by the government for the benefit of the people, I believe the resultant revenue would soon offset, if not wipe out, the debts of our provinces and the national debt as well. I am not enthusiastic about public ownership, I never have been. I have always felt that employing of large staffs as well as competition with private business was not a desirable government activity. But it does seem to me in view of the probable electrical developments that lie ahead that public ownership in the operation and control of our water-powers might well be entertained. To-day we build bridges; no one is needed to look after these structures. Only one or two men would be required to look after a big power development. Thus the objection of a large personnel is now obviated so far as the public ownership of our water-powers is concerned.
Several advantages would follow the government construction of power dams. In the first place, there would be cheap money and cheap credit; in the second place, there would be no promoters' profits, the plant would be developed at cost, and in that way the power would reach the consumer on an actual cost basis. Therefore I believe the time has come when this country should reserve for the benefit of the people all the water-powers not already alienated, to be developed by the government when and as required for the benefit of the nation generally. I would not have the government engage in the retailing of the power thus generated; according to my plan it should sell the power en bloc to distributors as well as to large users of power. In this way the government would always be in a position to see that the charges to the consumer were fair and reasonable.
If any warning is required as to the danger we run in connection with the private develop-
ment of electricity in this country, we do not need to look very far afield. I say, and I say it advisedly, Mr. Speaker, that the exploitation of water-powers in the United States is the crime of the century. The best people there realize it, and the information I am about to give hon. members is furnished me by men who are so wrought up over conditions in their own country that they have impressed on me, as they would impress on every member of parliament, the vital importance of preventing similar raids on our own water-powers. Why, I know of one little development of a few thousand horse-power that has changed hands five times in as many years, and to-day the securities representing the entire cost belong to whom? To those who own that water-power. But that is not all. One man in New York by the exploitation of water-powers in the United States cleaned up in 1927 the huge profit of one hundred million dollars. He has given no useful service whatever to his fellow-citizens by that sort of exploitation.
I hope the house will bear with me for a moment while I refer to one state of the union that has prevented similar raids on the public domain. California fortunately has a law on its statute books regulating the development of water-powers. That law has not been detrimental to the development of hydro-electric power within the state. I am told by reputable residents of California that private corporations have developed ample power to meet all requirements; but there has been no exploitation, simply because under that law the expenditure on power developments is supervised and the earnings are regulated.
Subtopic: NATURAL RESOURCES