Some years ago the Minister of Public Works stated to the House that he intended to have a general review of the construction of public buildings in Ottawa. I think he went so far as to secure an option or prices on some land adjoining the site of existing buildings, and indicated that a general report would be prepared as to the construction of new buildings that are necessary for the keeping of public documents ' and the efficient carrying on of the public service. May I ask if the minister has such a report ready or has it under consideration ? No year passes but we have an item in the estimates for the construction of some new building or the addition of a story to some building now in existence. It seems to me that this is rattier an expensive plan. I think the House would be better informed and the country better served if a general policy were proposed for the construction of buildings in the capital. Of course, I understand that the building that we are now discussing is a building designed for a special purpose.
I am not sure that I understand exactly what the hon. gentleman (Mr. Blain) means. It would be almost impossible to make plans according to which buildings for the future should be constructed. The special needs and the site have to be considered in every case. So far as the construction of post offices and custom houses in various parts of the country is concerned, we are trying to follow the best plan and to have them all as uniform as possible.
The hon. gentleman (Mr. Hyman) has misapprehended my question. I refer to the statement made by the Minister of Public Works that he had learned the price of a property on Wellington street in front of these buildings and proposed at an early day to bring down a report showing
what properties were available and at what prices, and setting forth .the policy of the government as to the purchase of property and the construction of buildings to meet the requirements of the public service.
I may say that I expected the discussion of that subject to come up on the item of rents of public buildings. If the hon. gentleman (Mr. Blain) has no objection I would be glad to have the matter discussed, and fully discussed, on that item. The sum paid as rent for buildings in Ottawa used for government purposes has grown to such proportions that it would be decidedly in the public interest to take action to provide a public building suitable for the requirements of the government service. I have had the matter under consideration to a certain extent. It is a very large question and involves a good deal of work. The officers of the department are now engaged in figuring out the floor space necessary for the departments iu Ottawa at the present moment. Of course, we must also, as well as we can, provide for the future. I hope that it will be possible, before the supplementary estimates are brought down, to consider this matter more fully and to have a good deal of information to lay before the House. I hope also to receive suggestions from members of the House, so that we may reach a couclusion that will be satisfactory to the representatives of the people.
I understand that this building, when completed will cost about $375,000. I suppose it is too late now to talk about whether the money should be voted or not. because the policy has already been decided upon and accepted by parliament. But I would he very glad if any of those who favoured the establishment of a mint at this time would explain the reasons by which that policy was supported. This is a very large amount Of money to spend for a work that seems to me clearly unnecessary.
I was not a member of the government when the decision to construct a mint was arrived at. I have always understood that the Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding) and the government gave very careful consideration to the whole question. The matter has been discussed Mr. BLAIN.
iii the House more than once, and I think that hon members oil both sides have taken very strong grounds in favour of the erection of this building. I understand that there was no question about the necessity for it. From a departmental standpoint, the Department of Public Works is only asked to bring in plans and specifications.
Would some one who has had to do with this decision, tell us why they have taken that decision ? I was not here to hear their reasons. This institution is to cost in the neighbourhood of $375,000. Although the decision to construct has been taken, might I be allowed to ask the reason, since we are now voting the money ? This is a very large amount of money, and I have not heard at any time reasons given why we should have a mint in Canada. Without saying that the money is* spent altogether uselessly, I may suggest that it is spent sooner than necessary.
I may say that parliament did not agree with the view just presented by my hon. friend (Mr. Bergeron) when the matter was up some years ago. In fact, I believe it was first brought up when my hon. friend occupied the seat lie now occupies, and it has been discussed during the interval that he has been away from the House. I think lie will remember that this matter was brought before parliament in 1899 or 1900, and more than once. At all events, whether my hon. friend was absent or present, this matter has been discussed in parliament more than once, and the idea taken by the government was that a mint had become necessary in view of the discovery of gold in the Yukon ; we thought the time had come when parliament should have power to coin our own money. From 1898 or 1899 the Yukon has produced gold ore to the extent of at least $10,000,000 a year. During all this time, that gold has gone to be coined in the United States, and we thought it good policy to have an institution where we could coin our own gold and put it into circulation in this country. My hon. friend is right perhaps in saying that the currency would be too limited to justify us in coining gold for Canada alone. But we have obtained from the Imperial authorities permission to coin for them also, and to issue coin for the United Kingdom. Therefore we aTe to coin not only for ourselves but we are to coin for the United Kingdom. This question has been discussed more than once in parliament, on these lines, and I never heard any objection taken to it. I have given to my hon. friend the chief reason that induced us to take the action we did, and that was the discovery of gold in the Yukon, which we thought ought to be minted in this country.
I do not know that it would add a single cent. But I suppose that my hon. friend is a National Policy man, that he wants to have Canada for the Canadians, and Canadian gold for a Canadian mint instead of Canadian gold for an American mint, as is the case at the present time. I should suppose that such a reason would appeal to my hon. friend.
I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without answering the suggestion of the hon. member for Beau-harnois (Mr. Bergeron), that Canada does not require a mint. He says he does not see any particular reason why we require a mint. Let me give him a few facts that I am sure will apeal to him as a good Canadian. Let me tell him and this committee that the cities of Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane Falls have been built up as a result of the shipment of Canadian gold mined in Canada, which has gone to swell the coffers of merchants in the United States. I can tell him further that we are producing nearly $20,000,000 worth of gold every year, and with the exception of $1,500,000 that is produced west of the foot hills of the Rocky Mountains, that gold has gone into the United States to be minted. When a miner wants to sell his gold he goes where the people will buy it and mint it. There is no city in Canada outside of Vancouver where he can dispose of his gold, and if he did. he would probably be obliged to sell it for $1 an ounce less than he could get on the American side.