It is very important that we should repair the old house unless we have money to burn. Here you have a customs house, which is pretty well situated, and, although injured by fire, may be repaired at a trifling cost. If the minister can do his work there fairly well, we should consider very carefully before going into an expenditure of half a million dollars because the Harbour Board wants us to do so. There does not seem to be any limit at all to the excursions which the Minister of Public Works is willing to take in the matter of public buildings.
I understood the minister to say that the customs work was done elsewhere and that this building was simply down at the shipping centre for the use of landing waiters. My opinion is that it has no business to be down there. There ought to be a building rented or some other provision made for having that building in another part of the city. I understand the customs house is in connection with the post office.
Perhaps I might be allowed to make a few remarks regarding the manner in which the question of removal has come up. Immediately after the fire, which destroyed a very considerable amount of other property, the question occurred to the Transcontinental Commissioners and the Harbour Board whether it would not be desirable to utilize the space burnt over in connection with railway terminal facilities for the Transcontinental. It has been represented to me that, in the opinion both of the Harbour Board and the Transcontinental Commissioners, there is no part of the city which could afford as good opportunities for providing these terminal facilities as this area which has been burnt over. If that part were selected for the terminal facilities, that would necessitate the removal of the customs house to another place. I do not wish to be understood as saying that this site will be given over to the Transcontinental or the Harbour Commission. If they take it, they will have to pay the Department of Public Works what the property is fairly worth. If it should form part of the Transcontinental railway terminal facilities, of course the
Grand Trunk Pacific will pay a rental on the cost. It is a matter of very great importance. It has not yet been decided what we shall do, but it is certainly worthy of most careful consideration.
Do I understand the Minister of Customs (Mr. Paterson) to say that he abdicates his position entirely with reference to the working of his department in this respect and leaves the matter to the Minister of Public Works? The hon. gentleman (Mr. Paterson) is responsible to the country for the expenditure of his department, and he must have an idea what facilities he requires. Does he want a half million dollar plant, or will a less expensive one do?
I am responsible for the expenditure of my department, but this does not pertain to the expenditure of my department. We have been burned out and must go somewhere. We are temporarily using the present premises, I fear at great inconvenience to the officers. We wished to rent a building there, but the commissioner thought-and his opinion was concurred in by the Public Works Department-that the rent was such that it was not advisable for us to pay it. What we want is to have a custom house in which the business can be properly transacted.