Are We Using Canada's Wealth Aright?
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 25 Mar 1943, p. 426-441
Wallace, Robert C., Speaker
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Item Type
The real wealth of a country: first, the physical wealth of its resources; second, the wealth of its people in their ability and qualities. The material resources of Canada. The realization that our natural resources are not inexhaustible and that they are rapidly being exhausted. Our responsibility for our natural resources. The problem of our resources accentuated by the needs of the war. Demands made on Canada and her natural resources, and the consequences of those demands. An examination of several of our natural resources: gold; forestry; mining; water resources and water power. An examination of Canada's human resources. The need for education and finding out each person's abilities. The speaker's faith in the resources of Canada. The need to become aware of the mistakes that have been made and are being made, and as quickly as possible seeing to it that they are being remedied. Finding niches for those who return from war.
Date of Original
25 Mar 1943
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Chairman The President, John C. M. MacBeth, Esq., B.A., K.C.
Thursday, March 25, 1943.

MR. JOHN C. M. MAcBETH: Dr. Robert Charles Wallace, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University, is our GuestSpeaker today.

Robert Charles Wallace was born on the "Mainland" Island of the Orkney group and, after being soundly tutored in the old classical tradition, went on to Edinburgh University, where he specialized in the sciences and graduated with distinction in Geology and Mathematics, collecting on the way out an 1857 Exhibition Scholarship which took him to Gottingen, Germany, where he gathered in the Ph.D. degree.

In 1910 he came to Canada to head up the newly created Department of Geology at the University of Manitoba, where, for the next eighteen years he served well his university and found time, at the request of the Province, to act as Commissioner of Northern Manitoba, in which office he was charged with the especial duty of examining into and reporting upon the economic possibilities of the country. By canoe and afoot, with pack and tump-line, he explored the vast district north of "The 53rd", living on beans and bacon, mingling with the pioneer settlers and the prospectors, and gaining such well-informed knowledge of the land and its wealth of natural resources, that, when he returned to Winnipeg and made his report, imagination was stirred and capital immediately started flowing into the territory.

He became Commissioner of Mines in 1927 but the following year, on a call from the University of Alberta, he returned to more strictly academic work, becoming President of that seat of learning.

The measure of the man was taken in Alberta. During the years of widespread economic disorder that began in the Autumn of 1929, there arose an insistent demand for the curtailment of the work of the Provincial University. Faced with the option of abandoning entire departments of teaching or of consenting to a general reduction of staff salaries, he unhesitatingly chose the latter course, and thus kept together an institution which had been brought to a highly useful stage of development under most adverse circumstances. Reasoned judgment has but acclaim for that sort of long distance vision and posterity will add its blessing.

From 1928 to 1936 he remained at the University of Alberta where his pioneering spirit made him one of the first to realize the value of the great pitchblende deposits in the northern part of the province and one of the first to suggest the development of the now widely known tar deposits about Fort McMurray.

In 1936 he accepted a call to become Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University, and it is as academic head of our sister University that he is with us today.

Dr. Wallace has been referred to as a university statesman. His attitude in this character may be expressed in his own words: "The duty of a University is to explore and develop the realm of knowledge in order that the mind of the student may be freed to entertain and assimilate new aspects of the truth and embark fearlessly on voyages of discovery in fields not yet fully explored. The mark of a university in student and professor is the forward-looking mind. And again: "The keynote of a liberal education is humanism. Scientific progress has transformed the mechanism of civilization but it has overlooked a humanistic note which the world needs and which only a classical education can adequately provide. It is becoming essential to understand science from the philosophical viewpoint." This, Gentlemen, from a Professor of Geology!

One may venture to suggest that there are three basic elements which are responsible for the personality which is Dr. Robert Charles Wallace: One, the study of geology, where a thousand years, yea even a hundred thousand years, are but as yesterday when it is past and as a watch in the night, which develops a philosophic mental attitude; two, the study of the Shorter Catechism of the Presbyterian Church, which develops a philosophic moral attitude; three, oatmeal porridge, which develops a philosophic physical attitude and a fit and proper housing for any man, and, Gentlemen, for such a man as we have the honour of entertaining today.

I have pleasure in presenting to you, Gentlemen, Dr. Robert Charles Wallace, M.A., Ph.D., LL.D., F.R.S.C., who will address us on the subject, "Are We Using Canada's Wealth Aright?" (Applause.)

DR. R. C. WALLACE: Mr. President and Gentlemen I am indeed humbled by this very kind introduction.

I should like to speak to you today about the real wealth of a country, of our country, of any country. It is in two parts: First, the physical wealth of its resources; second, the wealth of its people in their ability and qualities. The integration of the two will not necessarily lead to happiness, but it is necessary to provide the background without which happiness is not possible to obtain, and that integration I should like to discuss with you for a few minutes this afternoon, I would deal, first of all, with the purely material resources of our country.

It has been the practice of speakers for many generations, I should say, in Canada, to descant on our inexhaustible natural resources. We hear nothing of that note today. It is gone, because we now fully realize that these resources are not inexhaustible and, moreover, that they are rapidly being exhausted. We realize as well that they are something that Nature has given us, a gift of Providence over which we have responsibility. These responsibilities I should like to discuss with you very briefly this afternoon.

I have been led to think more deeply about this matter, though it has been in my mind for many years, by the necessity of looking into those resources, tabulating them, assessing them, from the standpoint of what they may do in adding to our wealth, or prevent our wealth from being depreciated and so raising the general economic level of our country at a time when there will be many people who look for employment.

It is that survey that has brought out in my mind more clearly than ever before the need for us as Canadians to think seriously about some of these problems which are basic to our whole life, because our purely material wealth comes from our resources and from nowhere else. The problem of our resources has been to some extent accentuated by the needs of the war. We learned very early in the present war that one of the great functions that Canada would fulfill would be as an arsenal to the Allied Nations in supplying the tools of war, the munitions of various kinds' for the various countries which are fighting together in this great struggle. We have learned as well that Canada is looked upon as a granary of food for these nations and for, later, the devastated parts of Europe.

These demands have made heavy inroads on some of our resources and have distorted our picture somewhat. It has led, for instance, to the base metals-nickel, copper, zinc, lead-being very heavily drawn on, so heavily that mining has had to be practised in some of them with what would be called by mining men, normally, an uneconomic way, in order to get those materials out. It has meant as well that some strategic minerals, not normally so much in the picture, such as tungsten, molybdenite, chromite, magnesium, are very heavily drawn on and very assiduously sought after today in Canada.

It has meant as well that one of the great mineral resources of our country, gold, has gone off the priority list altogether. The gold mining industry has suffered very severely and is suffering still more, because of that f act.

It has meant as well that our forests have been heavily drawn on in some parts for the needs of lumber material for current uses in the war. It has meant that our power, as we know so well in Ontario and Quebec, has been drawn on in a way that no one could have realized four years ago, to such an extent that we have now to limit very carefully the domestic uses of power. All these things have happened in a relatively short time and have to be taken account of in the consideration of the way that will provide the best employment from our natural resources in the days that follow the war.

Now, let me take these resources very briefly, seriatim. First of all, Mining. We all know that throughout Canada it has developed that in some outlying districts where mining resources have been found, towns have had to be set up, utilities provided, capital supplied, community life established, in order to carry forward the development of that mining property. When the mining property had been completely mined out, in most cases the whole territory has later become what we call a "ghost town", and all the expenditures, all the development of community life, have had to be broken up and new life established as well.

These ghost towns which stud Canada from east to west are, after all, no great tribute to our foresight as Canadian people. It is possible, by taking thought ahead of time, to do something in developing a community life through the soil and through agricultural and forestry development in areas where the community life has been established. The type of policy which is being adopted, for instance, down in the Gaspe Peninsula by the Quebec Government, where communal forests are set aside, so that the man on subsistence farming in that area, or the fisherman on the coast, is permitted to cut a certain amount of wood, under the control of a trained forester in those communal forests, and to market co-operatively, adds to his income and the possibility of making a reasonably satisfactory life. At the same time the forest does not in any sense become less valuable, for the cutting is done in such a way that the forest will re-establish itself.

It is our responsibility to develop our mining resources and at the same time maintain the type of structure that leads to a reasonably satisfactory community life when the mining wealth has disappeared, as it usually does in 20 or 25 years after the mining is established in any particular area.

The other problem of mining, and it is a very serious one, is this: because of the intensity of the war and because of the demand for certain types of metals, there is now no capital available for finding new materials across Canada, except perhaps in the strategic minerals which may not be quite so important when the war is over. The result is those properties are being mined out which had reached development before the war broke out and practically no new properties are coming forward. No new prospectors are in the field to find those properties. No incentive is being given to find them. No money is available from financial corporations to do so. The result will be--and it is very serious--that when the war is over there will be a hiatus, there will be a gap of some considerable time, unless we take thought ahead of time, which will add to the difficulty of finding employment. There is no way to meet that, that I can see, except to take this matter in hand now and see to it that through wise government regulations taxation on mining is of a kind that will encourage new money to find new materials of a kind that will be needed after the war.

It is the case, I think, that in some areas, at least, a tax equivalent to a dollar a ton of actual mined rock is imposed on the mining company. Now that is a very heavy tax and it must be realized that with every tax of that kind the amount of material that is ore becomes less because ore is only what can be developed out of the rock and if it cannot be developed profitably it remains in the rock and consequently will not be got out economically later.

It is I think, our responsibility to see to it that this great industry of Canada, this very great industry of the Province of Ontario, carries on continuously, without a break, when the war is over. We can only do that if we take thought and have prospectors trained and out in the field so the new properties can be found It is of great importance to the men coming back that this plan should be ready, because many of them at least will find an opportunity, after having been trained, to search for those minerals. You must keep in mind minerals are more difficult to find because a good deal that has yet to be found is under clay and not on the surface of rock. Material under clay is not so easy to discover as on the bare rock itself. It takes new techniques and different methods.

So much for the mineral wealth. I am speaking very cursorily.

In the industry of our forests we deal with a resource that is not indestructible if it is soundly handled. There is no reason why our forest wealth should not remain as it is today and become even greater--as great as it once was--if it is developed in the sound, sportsmanlike way. It is a crop which renews itself. If one takes the 400,000 square miles of what one might call accessible forest territory in Canada, it has been estimated that that renews itself year by year against depredations of the lumber man, the pulp man, the insects which destroy and the fire which kills. But the problem is that it does not renew itself in the places which it is being worked out today. If twelve cubic feet per acre were added by growth to each acre of that forest that would be sufficient to renew the forest indefinitely. Our growth is of that kind, it will added that amount per year, but unfortunately we work our forests from the edge inward, as a harvester works his field of wheat. We cut down from the outside and cut down fairly completely.

We cannot blame those in the forest industry. They have not been helped very much as yet by governments to do otherwise. If roads were built right back into the large timber reserves so that the cutting could be done systematically under correct forest management there would be no need at all for any forest to deteriorate. It would grow by nature with the right kind of cutting. We have not helped the forest men to do that kind of thing. We are only beginning now to realize that there is a responsibility, as public citizens, to help to maintain one of our great natural resources.

It is very satisfactory to note that the governments of the country are beginning to realize this and are taking wise measures now with our forests. That applies very definitely, I should say, to the Government in Ontario, but they can only go as far as the public opinion will permit them to go. It is only because we realize it and speak about it that Governments can put the money into what is after all one of the soundest types of investment that a country can offer. We must not forget that the forest industry of Canada exported in the days before the war more than $300,000,000 worth on the right side of the trade account. That is, we exported more than $300,000,000 worth of forest products more than we imported into Canada and the credit on the right side of the trade balance of $300,000,000 is no small thing for a country such as ours. It means a great deal in our national economy. That we must attempt to maintain. What the situation may be after the war, what the conditions of trade may be, whether Britain will still be willing to give preferences to a country like Canada, as against a country like Norway in forest materials, we do not know. We must not forget that the export trade in forestry is what has kept the industry alive and without the export trade it will be difficult to get government to .put the money into our forests. There, too, men in large numbers, both from overseas and from war industry, can be employed to very great advantage after they have been trained as foresters or as loggers or in other ways. That training will be available when the war is over.

At the present time in the provinces of Canada--and they have the forests under their responsibility--estimates are being made of the territory immediately available for merchandising, of the needs that that particular territory of forest has in supervision by trained men, the amount of road work that has to be done back into those forest territories. This is being assembled in order that we may know exactly the number of men that may be needed to put our forests into condition and to maintain that wealth, one of the greatest sources of wealth in Canada. Fifty per cent of the land area of our provinces of Canada is under forest. Some little time ago the Province of Ontario, in association with the Dominion Government, made a study of a small area of the Ganaraska River Watershed. The river flows through Port Hope into Lake Ontario, and the area was a white pine area and a very valuable one. Now in its upper reaches, in the sandy morain high up in the headwaters, it has been devastated by spring freshets. The sand is moving and covering over territory which had been transformed into agricultural land after the forests were logged. The whole picture is a very sad one indeed. The loss of agricultural soil through the devastation of a country which should have remained as forest is a picture that can be duplicated in your own experience in very many parts of all the provinces in Canada.

That survey was made in order to find out what the technique would be, what the type of men would be that would be needed, how they should be trained, what construction work should be established in order that territory such as this, taken as a type, might come back again into the best use to which it can be put. Part of it will be in reforestation, part of it will be in stabilizing the land by the right kind of crop, part in contour ploughing. This will give some kind of criterion which can be used for a great number of areas in Canada.

We cannot blame our forefathers. I have read into the history of that area. It was an amazing story of initiative in the building of community life in those early days. They did not see the picture, naturally, as we see it now. They had not the knowledge we have now, and there is no blame attached to them. We are facing now a practical situation where if we do not act, more and more of our valuable land will be useless and less and less of the land that can supply good forest material will not be available for the purpose for which it should be used.

Fortunately, there are farmers who are already busy planting white pine and Scotch fir in those areas. They are being assisted in part by the Government in doing so. The programme is a large one and of great importance and will undoubtedly employ, if correctly and soundly administered a great number of men very profitably.

Now as to water resources and water power. The water resources of a country are among the most valuable assets that the country has. A few years ago there was established what is called the "P.F.R.A."--Prairie Farmers Rehabilitation Act-an administration in the dry areas of the West. What that administration has already done is amazing. They have established small ponds--dugouts--over a great part of the dry area of the southern prairies of our Western Canada. They are bringing back again water into areas where water had disappeared. Now, that is not a temporary expedient for the dry years. It has to be carried through continuously in order that water which is the life-giver, after all, may be conserved the water level raised, and farmers have the water for the purposes for which it is needed. That can be done over other areas in Canada as well as the part which we call the dry belt of our western country.

More than that, our rivers can be used to best advantage only when their flow is regulated. We know something about the river floods of our rivers in, Ontario. Sometimes rivers are needed for a variety of purposes. Take the Saskatchewan River, for instance, which rises in the foothills of the Rockies, flows east into Lake Winnipeg across the three provinces of the prairies. At the headwaters, which are now to a considerable extent devastated of the forests which are a holding material for water, power is developed today and used throughout a considerable part of Alberta. The water comes from the melting of the snows in the mountains and it comes at one particular time of the year.

Further down, irrigation water of the Saskatchewan river supports agricultural communities. Still further down, near the mouth, in the marshes, muskrat farming is being practised on a large scale by water supplied to the marshes from the Lower Saskatchewan.

There is a variety of interests which may come into conflict. It is necessary to treat any large river, from the standpoint of all it can do for us and through some kind of administrative board which has the whole picture before it instead of simply the individual provinces which have only particular responsibilities and needs. Large construction works, and many dams, must be built in order to maintain the even flow which is needed for fish life and for the development of power.

We have developed in Canada now nearly a half of the easily available water power--at any rate, a third--and about one-sixth of the power that may some day, in the long distant future, be considered accessible in Canada. We are not nearly at the end of our power resources but we can do a great deal more than yet has been done in connection with those streams which are easily accessible. All power companies, including our own HydroElectric Power Commission here, are doing much with the rivers in creating the dams and the reservoirs and the necessary obstructions in order to maintain flow. What we need throughout Canada after knowing the rate of flow of our rivers, which has been determined over a number of years by Ottawa, is to determine the kind of works that are needed, so as to conserve our greatest and most valuable resources. Our most valuable resource is power. It will mean more and more for Canada. It has meant a great deal already. It has developed our mining industry in the north, it has developed the pulp and paper industry, it is rapidly developing our electro-chemical and electrometallurgical industries, which will be of much greater importance after the war than they have been. This development has come through cheap power. When the war is over perhaps nearly a third of the total power of Canada today--9,200,000 horsepower--will be thrown on the market for other uses because at the present time it is being used for war purposes. That will mean very cheap power. It will mean we can compete in the world markets. It will mean, I trust, that we can establish to a greater extent than before small industry in the small rural towns. This will make life more satisfactory than it can possibly be, looked at in real, ultimate values, (I hesitate to say this in the City of Toronto) in any large city. We will yet have a movement out into good rural towns, well supplied with the amenities of life through power, of some of the industries that can establish themselves more satisfactorily under rural conditions.

It means more than that. It means that some day all our farmers will have power supplied to their farms. There is nothing that can stabilize farm life more than the utility of power led to the farms, and to the kitchen except only good prices for farm products. It will be considered a public service. We may find, as has been the experience of the Tennessee Valley authority, that new methods of farming, based on the development of power for supplying the needs of the country may raise the whole level in the farming communities.

I look forward, as I am sure you all do, to rural electrification on a large scale, not through public or private power companies alone, but through public funds as a great social service which we must supply to our agricultural communities in order that life among them may be as relatively easy and satisfactory as it is in the cities.

Now, Gentlemen, I. have left very little time for our second resource, our human resources. Our material resources can only be used through our human ability and aptitude. We must see to it that our human resources are used to the full and trained to the best use. The war has shown us what we can do. The abilities of men are analyzed by our psychologists and all are put as far as possible to the kind of work that they can do best. That is one cue in dealing with the human problem in general. We do not give the opportunity today to those who are financially in the lower level to go forward to the type of training that may suit them best, where they can do their best work. We have not made it possible for the sons and daughters of the farmer to go forward, either in academic or technical life. There is no waste so great as the waste of human ability. High human ability is a rare thing. We must find it wherever it is and use it to the very limit. Not only that, the men and women of average ability keep a country going. Abilities are different for different people. They have to be found out. With the ordinary education which all should have, there should be as well the particular kind of education that a man needs most to develop the ability that he has. This will not be as expensive as might be supposed. The only real resource of a country, after all, is its men and women, not only their actual ability, but their outlook on life, their sense of responsibility to others, to the resources of a country, to the way of looking into the future. There are schools today that are finding out, even in the lower grades, just what the abilities of the boys and girls are, and are directing them as far as possible into the right channel after they have attained a reasonably sound education. It may be academic, it may be technical, it may be agricultural, it may be something else. Each ability is valuable in its own sphere and that value should be used.

Now, Gentlemen, I hope I have not seemed to be pessimistic in what I have said today. I have a great faith in the resources of this great country of ours, an unbounded faith. But we must become aware of the mistakes that have been made and are being made, and as quickly as possible see to it that they are being remedied. Support the governments that are trying to do so. No one can say to me that young people, the resource of our country, are not as able as they ever were. I think they are abler than we were. I have unbounded confidence in our young men and women. It is our business to see that they obtain, without hindrance financially, the kind of education that will suit them to the great jobs in life we have to do in this country, in Canada.

More than that, it is the business of all of us to see to it that our country, when the men come back who are risking their lives for us, is ready for them, in order that they may step into the niche which is theirs. What we have to do in the meantime, it is about that that I have spoken to you. (Applause-prolonged.)

MR. JOHN C. M. MACBETH: On our behalf we have asked Principal Wallace to thank Principal Wallace. In other words, we have asked Principal Wallace of the University of Toronto to thank Principal Wallace of Queen's University-Principal Wallace.

PRINCIPAL WALLACE: Mr. Chairman, you have paid me a very great compliment indeed in asking me to offer the thanks of this audience to Principal Wallace for the extraordinary stimulating address to which we have just listened. I am afraid that you have been misled by a similarity of names to overlooking the question of capacity. I am afraid, as far as my scientific knowledge is concerned, I could make out a very poor case for myself, but I comfort myself by remembering that Principal Wallace is not merely scientist but he is a very special type of scientist. He is a Scot and a Scot not only has a capacity which is supposed to be unique, he has a capacity for being very practical, very efficient to carry out the practical jobs of this world, and at the same time to find his occupation not inconsistent at all with a great love of poetry. A strange human being, you will admit, and not duplicated in very many parts of the world. I don't know whether Principal Wallace writes poetry. I have always had a suspicion if one had access to his most secret papers one might find a collection of poems among them. I don't know whether that is true or not.

He has given us a most interesting address today and I gather the chief idea he wished to leave with us is something like this- he has rather suggested that exploitation of our natural resources is no longer a legitimate ideal and that some such idea as trusteeship is what we must consider for the future. Our forbears, I presume the forebears of many of you who are present, were necessarily exploiters of our natural resources. Their immediate needs could be satisfied only in that way and perhaps there are no more melancholy pictures in our country than the evidences of exploitation on a grand scale.

On my way to my summer cottage I have frequently had to drive from Port Huron up through Michigan to the Soo. I have been told that that territory grew the most valuable crop that has ever been grown on earthly land-white pine-and today it is a depressing, wretchedly depressing country. The amount of reforestation that has been done is negligible. In other words, the exploiter worked his will upon it and has done nothing else.

British Columbia furnishes us with some other very, very shocking examples of the same thing and Principal Wallace suggests for the future a new word is to dominate our activities--Trusteeship. We are to use what we need but we are not to assume that the growth of centuries may be exploited by a single generation which passes on after having taken its complete toll of the bounty of nature. That word, "Trusteeship", is perhaps going to play a great role in our new world. Take, for instance, the whole relationship of the great nations to the smaller nations. It is a tempting subject to elaborate on, and I am sure the word "Trusteeship" is going to be the word that will appeal to men who have some rudiments of conscience left and are able to read the signs of the times.

On your behalf I am going to venture to offer to Principal Wallace our very warm thanks for the extraordinarily interesting talk to which we have been able to listen today. (Applause.)

MR. JOHN C. M. MACBETH: Thank you, Principal Wallace, and, thank you, Principal Wallace.

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Are We Using Canada's Wealth Aright?

The real wealth of a country: first, the physical wealth of its resources; second, the wealth of its people in their ability and qualities. The material resources of Canada. The realization that our natural resources are not inexhaustible and that they are rapidly being exhausted. Our responsibility for our natural resources. The problem of our resources accentuated by the needs of the war. Demands made on Canada and her natural resources, and the consequences of those demands. An examination of several of our natural resources: gold; forestry; mining; water resources and water power. An examination of Canada's human resources. The need for education and finding out each person's abilities. The speaker's faith in the resources of Canada. The need to become aware of the mistakes that have been made and are being made, and as quickly as possible seeing to it that they are being remedied. Finding niches for those who return from war.