The Conservation of Canada's Resources
Publication
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 20 Oct 1910, p. 57-63
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Sifton, Hon. Clifford, Speaker
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Text
Item Type
Speeches
Description
The work of the Commission on Conservation with regard to the conservation of our natural resources. Living in an age of exploitation, of development. The aim of everyone to make the natural resources contribute to the wealth of the individual and of the community. The abundant resources. The work of the United States Commission, making amends for the reckless waste and wanton destruction. The movement within the last few years to look to the conservation of our natural resources in order that the people of the present generation may derive the proper benefit from them, and in order that these resources may endure for the benefit of their posterity. Opposition to this movement. Three statements made by the speaker with regard to this movement in the United States and the consequences if its theories are not followed through. The United States today as what Canada will be in 30 or 40 years if proper means are not used now to preserve our natural resources. The position in Canada with regard to natural resources, especially in comparison to the United States. The great problem in Canada today how to arrive at a system of government whereby laws can be framed to protect resources permanently and to prevent them falling under monopolistic control. A few facts from history bearing on this subject. Illustrating the scope of conservation by pointing out what has happened without it. Ways in which Conservation policy affects our population. The question of water-power. Looking at the Grand River to see what happens when the forests have been cut away from the sources and along the banks. An estimate of Canada's supply of timber. The importance of conserving our forests to ensure the supply for all time to come. A word upon the subject of agriculture, the most valuable resource we have because it raises a virile population which is the backbone of a nation. Agriculture production in Ontario.
Date of Original
20 Oct 1910
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English
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Full Text
THE CONSERVATION OF CANADA'S RESOURCES.
An Address by the Hon. Clifford Sifton, M.P., Chairman of the Dominion Conservation Commission, before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, on Oct. 20th, 1910.

I had intended saying a few words to you upon the special phase of the work of the Commission on Conservation as it relates to public health in the cities, and in that connection had thought of speaking at some length on the problem of housing for the slum population, but have changed my mind, as you have had an address in the city of Toronto from Mr. Henry Vivian, an authority on this subject, and one who can speak with far more authority than I. I shall deal with the work of the Commission as regards the conservation of our natural resources.

We have been living in an age of exploitation, or if you will, of development. It has been the aim of everyone to make the natural resources contribute to the wealth of the individual and of the community. These resources have been abundant-forests, mines, farms and waterpower. The work of the United States Commission has been carried on upon a very large scale south of the international boundary and with feverish activity, in order to make amends for the reckless waste and wanton destruction; for it is no exaggeration to say that nothing has been found in the annals of the world's history where the natural resources have been converted into money or its equivalent, so rapidly, so successfully and on so large a scale as has been done in the United States during the last forty years. Farming methods used have been wasteful and unscientific; the forests have been destroyed with amazing recklessness; the fisheries have been seriously depleted. The disappearance of the forests at the presentrate seems only a matter of a few decades. In various ways many districts with large areas, formerly rich, have become totally unproductive. And, worse still, the vast resources yet remaining to them, through loose and unsatisfactory laws, are practically monopolized by large financial interests, so that the people cannot participate in them on moderate and reasonable terms.

Within the last few years many have begun to look to the conservation of these resources in order that the people of the present generation may derive the proper benefit from them, and in order that these resources may endure for the benefit of their posterity. This movement has aroused strong opposition in some quarters, especially amongst the financial interests in the United States, who opposed most hotly the whole movement, and a ruthless war is being waged against the policy of reservation. But I am able to state three things: First, that most of the public-spirited men in the United States are in favour of the movement; second, that the masses of the people are with them because it is in their benefit; and third, if its theories are not followed through to the end social disturbances, will occur in the future which will be largely in the nature of a national calamity.

I have gone to the United States for a text, because the States today is what Canada will be in thirty or forty years if proper means are not used now to preserve our natural resources. The United States is a democratic country as we are; the conditions which are existing there today would result here if not "nipped in the bud." In regard to the resources of Canada it is true they have been almost illimitable. In the past the greatest trouble has been that we had not the capital or the population to develop them properly. Neither of these drawbacks exist today; both are flowing in, and in a short time in fact, we shall find a complete change in the situation. We shall also find the United States capitalists reaching out to make use of our resources for their own purposes after their resources are exhausted. And money and business capacity will be expended without stint to obtain this end. Other countries have suffered also from a disappearance of national resources in the past, but, unfortunately, the people of these nations did not awaken in time to grapple with it in a comprehensive and effective manner. Denmark and Switzerland, little countries that we might feel inclined to jeer at, have adopted the best means of conserving their resources. It is the duty of Canadians to get rid of the old shibboleths and to learn that new problems have arisen. The great problem in Canada today is how to arrive at a system of government whereby laws can be framed to protect resources permanently and to prevent them falling under monopolistic control. This is a subject that surely everyone should be interested in, and it is of far-reaching and paramount importance.

I would like to give you a few facts from history bearing on this subject. History, as a rule, gives us a poor insight into the real causes, that brought about the decadence of the old nations, but we are able to augment its lessons. Do you think that had Rome maintained her agricultural productiveness and agricultural citizenship, the barbarians from the north would ever have looted the western empire? Had Egypt, once the granary of the world, conserved her resources, she would not have descended to the impoverished state in which Britain found her. It is only during the past fifty years that she has attempted to lift her head again. The passing of the agricultural class had struck the death-knell of that nation, and the same thing can be said about all other great nations which have passed. Of each one of them it can be said: "It used up its national resources, the only means of subsistence for its people." Can anyone estimate what the saving of the grape vine was to France? This was done by one man, Louis Pasteur, who set out to ascertain the trouble, and found out what was killing it. Why is it that Canada has no serious and widespread poverty to-.day? It is due to the great resources which are so easily convertible into money. What is happening in England? Where will she be when her iron and coal disappear, if her agricultural population is not restored? How will the great factories sustain a population when fuel is gone? Decline must inevitably set in.

I am trying to illustrate the scope of conservation by pointing out to you what has happened without it. I will now try to show how it can be applied in Canada. In this country it is the people who rule, and whatever they say should be done and will be done. The fact that a necessary thing has not been done shows that the people did not take the trouble to see that it was done. Important changes can be effected in Canada more quickly than they can anywhere else in the world. The most important thing in the policy of conservation is not to waste time, but to act quickly. In some cases where remedies are desirable a loss of time is not of so much importance as the troubles remain stationary, but when forests are being cut down or burned down and not replaced, damage is being done which will take centuries to repair. We have an illustration in the housing problem.' If we allow men and women to herd together a race of degenerates will grow up, which years and years of legislation will not stamp out, in fact I have never known of a race of people who have become degenerate regaining their former physique. If the Conservation policy is properly applied, we can await the flood of population here fearlessly. They are accustomed to freedom, but they are not always alert to the dangers that arise from it, nor are they always willing to acknowledge that virtues exist under other forms of government, which we will not tolerate here. The United States is democratic, yet the monopolization of wealth there is proceeding at a rate that has never been equalled by other countries. The result of this cornering of wealth must mean poverty and want for the masses in a few years. In Germany, under an almost despotic form of government, they are going in for a scientific application of Conservation in order to bring about economy in the means of the people's subsistence. That is not being practiced here nor in the United States. With proper protection in this country, we can support any population that can be reasonably anticipated. We can make progress, but it should be safeguarded and not allowed to develop into destruction. The difficulty is to get those in control to see how great are the opportunities to do the necessary things to bring Conservation about.

Then there is the question of water-power. There was a perfect epidemic of water-power legislation at the last Session, much of which was objectionable. No perpetual franchise on water-power should ever be given by a Government. Limited franchise might be granted, but the rate to be charged for power should be under public control. We also conceive it to be the duty of the Commission to strengthen the hands of any body working along the same line as ourselves, and, therefore, will promise the heartiest co-operation to forestry and fish and game associations.

We have only to look at the Grand River to see what happens when the forests have been cut away from the sources and along the banks. Such matters as these require immediate attention, and it is my opinion that reafforestation should be in the forefront of the necessary legislation that should be passed in this country. I think the press ought to speak out in vigorous terms and keep this matter ever before the Government. In the United States it is estimated that if the consumption of lumber does not increase, their supply will last about thirty years more. As the consumption would inevitably increase, this means the supply will last only about twenty years. You can imagine the plight of about 120,000,000 of people without lumber! What will they do? Why, they will come to Canada for it if proper measures are not passed to protect our forests. If the United States are compelled to fall back upon Canadian supply, and if this happens twenty years hence, the Canadian supply would last only seven years. It is estimated that at the present rate of going the United States will then have no timber in the ordinary sense of the word. A rather appalling fact! It is estimated that the timber supply of the United States, that is merchantable timber, apart from fire-wood, poles and fence rails, is twenty-two hundred billion feet, board measure. The annual consumption is a little over one billion feet, and, calculating the annual growth as thirty billion feet, the net annual consumption, therefore, is seventy billion feet, and this makes just thirty years' supply, or a little less. That is, if the estimate of what they have got at the present time does not turn out to be exaggerated (which I think we can hardly hope for).

It is estimated that Canada has the following supply of timber at the present time: Prince Edward Island, six hundred million feet; Nova Scotia, twelve thousand million feet; Quebec, seventy-five thousand million feet; Ontario, seventy-five thousand million; Dominion hands, one hundred and fifty thousand million feet; British Columbia, two hundred thousand million feet-a total of five hundred billion feet of lumber, against twenty-two hundred billion feet in the United States. I believe there are men in this room today who will see the time when the people of Canada will be compelled to ask for the prohibition of the export of lumber. Why not now conserve our forests and ensure the supply for all time to come? There are enormous tracts of land in Canada which can never be used for anything else but the growing of timber. What a magnificent reward there would be if only some of the acres were afforested, or reafforested and protected from fire?

Let me add one word, gentlemen, upon the subject of agriculture, which is the most valuable resource we have, because it raises a virile population which is the backbone of a nation. Great Britain today is bemoaning the depletion of her agricultural population, and unless a radical change takes place, it will become a thing of the past. Now, what is our position here? In 1907 our production of wheat was 22 bushels to the acre. In the United States it was about 14 bushels; in Germany, 27.6 bushels; Ontario, 18 bushels or less. Manitoba, with virgin soil, less than 16 bushels to the acre. Now, you say, how can this state of things be avoided; people have to get their living out of the soil; they must live. What has been done in little Denmark? When Germany took Schleswig-Holstein it annexed the most fertile part of Denmark. The Danes only had a country of 16,000 square miles that was barren of all else but a scrub. They spent twenty-five years of experimental work in finding trees that would grow upon their land. Today this small country has half, in fact more than half of its population employed in agriculture, has 80 percent of its entire area under cultivation, and exports annually $80,000,000 worth of produce-469,000,000 of which goes to Great Britain. What is our task, gentlemen, compared with the one the Danes faced and overcame? The Netherlands, with 126,048 square miles, and a population of 5,672,000, produces $314,000,000 worth of produce annually, and 232 bushels of potatoes to the acre on an average; and any person who knows anything about Agriculture, will say that is hard to beat. These instances that I have mentioned will serve to show what can be done if proper methods of Agriculture are used.

Now, how do we compare in Ontario? I understand that there has been very little increase in Agriculture during the last fifteen years. In fact, no increase at all. I am not in a position to speak authoritatively, but I am assured by those who ought to know, that Ontario is practically standing still. You have in Mr. ,James, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, a skilled man and one of the best in the world for the work he has in hand if he were given an opportunity of doing the work. He told me of at least fifty cases where young men who had received a scientific education at the expense of the Province were now teaching in other countries. These men had gone abroad because the people of Ontario could not afford to pay them sufficient salaries to keep them here and teach their people Agriculture. The land in Ontario, without doubt, is only producing about one-third what it is capable of producing. We have in Ontario as good farmers as there are in the world, but there is not nearly enough of them. It is simply heart-breaking to go through the farming sections of Ontario and see the careless, shiftless methods used. What would you do, you say? I would say to Mr. James: "You are the man to remedy this, put trained men in each district. We will give you the money. Educate these farmers and compel them by the force of your persuasive arguments to adopt proper methods. We'll give you the money and look to you for results."

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The Conservation of Canada's Resources


The work of the Commission on Conservation with regard to the conservation of our natural resources. Living in an age of exploitation, of development. The aim of everyone to make the natural resources contribute to the wealth of the individual and of the community. The abundant resources. The work of the United States Commission, making amends for the reckless waste and wanton destruction. The movement within the last few years to look to the conservation of our natural resources in order that the people of the present generation may derive the proper benefit from them, and in order that these resources may endure for the benefit of their posterity. Opposition to this movement. Three statements made by the speaker with regard to this movement in the United States and the consequences if its theories are not followed through. The United States today as what Canada will be in 30 or 40 years if proper means are not used now to preserve our natural resources. The position in Canada with regard to natural resources, especially in comparison to the United States. The great problem in Canada today how to arrive at a system of government whereby laws can be framed to protect resources permanently and to prevent them falling under monopolistic control. A few facts from history bearing on this subject. Illustrating the scope of conservation by pointing out what has happened without it. Ways in which Conservation policy affects our population. The question of water-power. Looking at the Grand River to see what happens when the forests have been cut away from the sources and along the banks. An estimate of Canada's supply of timber. The importance of conserving our forests to ensure the supply for all time to come. A word upon the subject of agriculture, the most valuable resource we have because it raises a virile population which is the backbone of a nation. Agriculture production in Ontario.