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Speech at the Directors' Luncheon, Central Canada Exhibition, Ottawa, September 9, 1918
In the first place permit me to congratulate the Directors of the Central Canada Exhibition upon the courage and vision which has enabled them and their predecessors to build up the Exhibition to its present status and to maintain it during the past four years of war. One must be impressed with the educative value of such exhibitions; they afford the people the means of knowing our resources, their development and the abundance of opportunity in a young, rapidly growing country like Canada. Upon its educational purpose and service the permanence of any exhibition must finally depend; there must be a definite purpose beyond mere amusement or enjoyment. I have been particularly struck with the development of the Canadian National Exhibition along these lines, and doubtless the Central Canada Exhibition has had the same purpose.
Official and private visitors from European countries, such as France and Belgium and Denmark, where the density of the populations has taught the people lessons not yet learned here, have been impressed with the great wastefulness everywhere apparent in this country. It has been asserted by those who have given close attention to the subject that in almost any city in Canada enough is wasted in one week to provide food for the whole city for two days out of the seven. Perhaps that is an exaggeration, but it is perfectly true that there is great waste; for example, certain portions of animals slaughtered for food that are utilized in other countries are thrown away in Canada. Many examples of this could be given. Several species of fish that are now used for food were regarded as valueless twenty-five years ago; indeed, many articles that in other countries are found to be both edible and nutritious have been wasted here. There is waste also in the preparation of food, as to which we have yet to learn many useful lessons.
The war will teach many other lessons. I have reason to believe that men serving in the Canadian Forestry Corps in Great Britain and France will come back to Canada with new ideas as to forest conservation, and especially as to re-afforestation. Much has been said during recent years on this subject, but practical object lessons are usually much more effective than the written or spoken word.
There must be an avoidance of waste in all departments of national activity by federal, provincial and municipal governments. That can only be accomplished by the cultivation of a healthy public opinion, and by the realization of the same purpose by the people in their own personal affairs. The burdens of the country will be great, but compared with our resources, if properly developed, they will not eventually be serious. The country's resources are enormous and they must be conserved as far as possible for the benefit of the whole people. In order to conserve it is not necessary or desirable that resources should lie idle; but they must be developed in the interest of the people and not exploited for individual profit, for it must always be borne in mind that adherence to such a policy will increase that equality of opportunity which should be the sure purpose of every true democracy.
Among the great resources with which Canada has been so amply endowed are its vast water powers. While our mineral resources are enormous, nevertheless the supplies of coal, however great, must eventually become exhausted; but water powers are inexhaustible and they can be developed and utilized for the advantage of all the people without any serious difficulties in organization or distribution. The use is manifold, ranging from the operation of great transportation systems to detail work on small farms.
The Canadians who have fought so gallantly for our liberties and those of the world, and who have given to our country a great place among the world's nations, will return to Canada with a wider vision and with a higher appreciation of the opportunities that lie before them. Undoubtedly there will be difficult problems during the period of reconstruction; no one can be sure whether these problems will be more or less difficult than we now foresee. The Governments of the Dominion and of the Provinces, all governing bodies of the whole people, must unite in an earnest endeavour to meet these difficulties, however great they may prove, with true courage, with sincere purpose, and with the most effective organization. Above all let there be unity of purpose. I have spoken of waste; but unnecessary discord and unseemly controversy are the worst possible waste of the nation's effort. Discord arises chiefly through lack of mutual understanding; Canadians of different communities and provinces should know each other better, should strive for a wider vision of each other's purpose and aims. Upon that truer understanding the united national spirit of the future must be founded.
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Source : Borden, Robert Laird. Robert Laird Borden in Canada and the United Kingdom. [Ottawa?: Office of the Prime Minister?], 1918. Pages 29-31.