May 3, 1928

CON
LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Mr. Chairman, we recognize two things with respect to these appropriations. First, that the government has supreme control in determining (a) the community in which public moneys are to be expended, and (b) the extent to which those moneys shall be expended. In selecting their own favourites, constituencies that return their supporters, they indicate the common humanity of all members of this house. And in determining how .much money shall be spent they usually have regard to the ability of the representative to extract money from the exchequer. If a member is sufficiently strong to get the government to build a $25,000 building in a community where a $10,000 building would do, he usually gets a $25,000 building; and if he cannot get the $25,000 expenditure he is satisfied with the $10,000.

Now, we take the position that some regard should be had to the necessities of the public service. It cannot possibly be that the only communities in which there is any necessity for the expenditure of public moneys are in constituencies which are represented by supporters of the administration. That must be clear. It is also true that in recent years representations have been made to the government by members on this side of the house that would involve the expenditure of very much larger sums than appear in the estimates. The question the minister has to decide is whether those representations have behind them any sound basis of fact, or whether they are merely made for the purpose of members appearing to be doing their duty by their constituencies: for most members are very insistent in their demands that something should be done for their localities. The question to be determined is whether or not these representations are based on a

clear appreciation of the real necessities of the public service, or are merely made to enable the member to point to a page in Hansard where his remarks are recorded. I think the Minister of Public Works, a very old and adroit and experienced politician, is well aware of the fact that both cases are always coming before him. A member who has a doubtful seat desires to be sure of his re-election, and he insists upon having money expended for purposes that cannot possibly be justified by the necessities of the case compared with what is being done in other parts of Canada.

This is a large country and there are many communities in which public money should be expended; the minister cannot provide for all of them; but if we find him providing a public building in a small community already veiy well served, while a large community supplying substantial revenues is obliged to carry on the public service with inadequate facilities, then we know that the consideration governing the minister's decision is mostly political. For instance, if thousands of dollars is spent on a wharf to serve one small industry located on a river where an occasional boat is apt to run into a mud bank before it reaches the wharf for, say, a cargo of salt -we will take that merely as an illustration- then we know the considerations that govern are not solely in the public interest. In 1925 I was driven in an automobile through some small communities in Ontario, and I recall very distinctly one place that was provided with a public building, certainly most beautiful to look upon, but I could not find there was very much local revenue to justify its erection; but the member had been a very firm and ardent supporter of the administration since 1921, and his devotion to a great cause could not be lightly overlooked.

In the west we have several communities that are contributing very large revenues to the exchequer. Everyone will admit that upon the success of the farming operations in western Canada-the creation of new wealth-to no inconsiderable extent rests the prosperity of the two great eastern provinces. Take, for instance, the community in which I live. Last year the minister saw the site for a post office that was bought prior to the war. It is in the centre of the city. Two, if not three of the lots were contributed by the citizens when the town was first laid out. A high building was erected upon it with not much floor space-a post office requires a great deal of floor space. Between 1911 and 1913 the site was acquired for something over a couple of

Supply-Public Works-Quebec

hundred thousand dollars. It is a very large site, because, as I have said, a post office requires plenty of floor space, having regard to the business transacted at that centre. The old building was removed and the cellar partly excavated. The $250,000 that was in the estimates the year the war broke out was not revoted, and of course no one expected anything would be done until after the war. Since that time there have been repeated partial promises-I do not say undertakings in any sense-that this matter would be dealt with, and the board of trade and other public bodies had occasion to bring it to the attention not only of the Minister of Public Works but of the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Railways when they visited the community. The location is on the principal thoroughfare of the city. While the government could not be expected to provide for the new building in a single year, because I dare say it will involve the expenditure of a million dollars, $250,000 annually for four years would be sufficient to provide the accommodation. General plans were prepared, but nothing further was done. At present premises are occupied at a rent, mark you, that would more than pay interest and sinking fund upon the investment I have mentioned for putting up a new building that would house all the departments of the federal public service. That is a case which, I submit, should be dealt with. There are other similar cases throughout the Dominion.

I appreciate the difficulties of the minister. He has to make selections, and, being only human, he cannot resist the pressure of his political friends. But while I do not expect him to do that, I think it is not unreasonable to ask that the public service itself should be looked after. The other day the Postmaster General pointed out with respect to the situation at Le Pas that steps had been taken, very properly, to provide a public building because it was a new community transacting considerable business out of which the country was deriving substantial revenues. But surely the fact that communities which are supplying large customs and postal revenues do not for the moment return supporters of the administration, should not be a reason for their demands for public buildings being entirely overlooked. Now, if for ten long years since the war the community that I mention has been compelled to carry on under the conditions described, has not the time come when proper accommodation should be provided? What I have said of that community is true of some of the towns on the 56103-167J

Pacific slope, and in the interior. An extension to the post office at Edmonton was started last year. Tenders were called for [DOT]public buildings at other places in the west, but since the war expenditures for this purpose have been very limited, and those new buildings that have been constructed have not always been needed to meet the demands of the public service, but rather have been provided for the reasons that I have mentioned. The minister, I know, may have the best intentions in the world, and it well may be that when his recommendations reach council those who look over them may say: Why should a public building be built in the constituency of A; why should that Conservative riding have any money spent in it? There are members of council who would look at it in that way. Then again there is a second difficulty to overcome, and that is the opposition of the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Finance says, "We cannot provide further moneys this year for this particular service ", That being so, and since you have to cut down the amount that is to be expended, it is those communities that support the administration that are remembered, while the others are blotted out from the book of remembrance. That is the situation in relation to these matters. Certainly if you left the question to business men they would never think of leaving two or three communities I know of in western Canada in their present condition so far as public buildings are concerned.

In Ottawa you pay in rentals at the present time over $700,000. That, I think, is approximately the amount. Then you pay for light, and heat. That represents interest and at. least a reasonable sinking fund, having regard to modern construction, of $15,000,000. Why have we not spent $15,000,000 and stopped paying rentals, so that at the end of twenty-five or thirty years we might own these, buildings and be no longer under the necessity of paying further rent? Why not

establish a policy in this regard? The same thing might be done in Calgary. If we borrowed under a special form of security this could be done. You might call it a public works four and a half per cent sinking bond, continue paying rents, as you are now doing, to be used to pay interest and sinking fund on the securities for the next twenty-five years or so, and at the end of that period you would have paid off the securities and would own the property. The country would then be free from rentals for the future. This should have been done long ago; everyone

Supply-Public Works-Quebec

realizes that. But it has not been done. Is there any reason why such a policy should not be adopted?

You have laid in this city the cornerstone of a building to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of confederation-and this anniversary, by the way, seems to have afforded an opportunity for the conception of many monuments in the way of buildings and other works. The cornerstone of this particular building is there. The land on which the building will be erected we have owned since before the war-a long stretch of property. Certain buildings are still there, and in the ten years that have elapsed since the war we have squandered more money than would have sufficed to put up proper buildings. Now if the difficulty is as great as is suggested, with respect to taking the money out of current revenue-and it may be considerable -I would point out that some years ago I suggested to the Minister of Finance, as I do again to-day, a simple method of dealing with the matter. How are great business enterprises dealing with a similar situation? The day before yesterday you saw the issue of certain securities, $16,000,000 of preferred shares, by a great industrial enterprise in Canada. They contained sinking fund provisions. Certainly some issued the same day, with respect to preferred shares-I am not saying which I have in mind at the moment, for I may be confused-did contain a provision of that character. Another enterprise the other day issued bonds for $4,000,000 or $5,000,000, five and a half per cent, which also contained a sinking fund provision. Now with this $700,000 which is paid here in rentals-it is, I think, nearer $750,000; the .deputy minister can tell the minister-you [DOT]can go to any trust company in this country and they will lend you about $15,000,000, itaking the securities from you, and taking Your rental; and after a period of time, I should say approximately twenty-three years, doing it by mental arithmetic at the moment, you will be able to retire the loan and have acquired the property, having paid no higher rental in the meantime. Certainly you will not pay less. At any rate, you will not have paid a dollar more and by that time you will have owned the buildings. But instead of pursuing such a policy we are going on in the same old way. And what is true in Ottawa is true in the city in which I live. There they are paying thousands of dollars in rents-the exact figure I obtained from the deputy minister two years ago, and I will

not state it at the moment because it may not now be correct. With that money, why not arrange with some trust company in Canada or in the United States to finance the matter in the way I have suggested? The companies in the United States would tumble over one another for the opportunity to do it. They would take that money per annum for the next twenty-three years, put up the buildings, expend a million and a quarter, and consider themselves well repaid.

Take the structures which the banks are building. Does anyone realize how these buildings are being put up? Some of my hon. friends no doubt think that the banks put up these buildings out of profits. That is not so. These great buildings are the properties of realty companies, which are owned by the banks. This is not so with respect to all banks, but I am speaking in a broad way. The realty company owns the lot, and the building is erected. It issues its bonds, which are bought by the great insurance companies *-six millions, five millions, four millions, or whatever it may be. They have a trust deed, the bank rents the property on a proper rental basis, paying the money into the realty company as though it were renting the building from a stranger, and at the end of the period the bank owns the building because it owns the company, the rentals paid by the bank and other tenants of the building being sufficient to pay interest and sinking fund on the bonds.

If the banks do this-and it is the only way in which they could acquire the magnificent structures which they possess, inasmuch as they could not build them out of profits- why should not the country conduct its business on a similar basis, having a reasonable regard for the experience of others? Then you come to the railways, in the matter of equipment. The day was when the first transcontinental railway in this country used to buy its equipment every year on the theory that out of revenues a car going out of commission had to be replaced. That day has gone. What happens now? Instead of paying for their equipment all at once, they purchase, we will say from the Baldwin Locomotive Company, if it is in the United States, or the American Locomotive Company or Kingston Locomotive Works if in Canada, assuming that they do not build in their own shops. Any hon. gentleman, when passing from the car at the rear of the train to the door of the station, will observe on most locomotives a little plate upon which there is a number indicating, something by inscription, that the particular locomotive is covered by

Supply-Public Works-Quebec

an equipment trust mortgage. Every year they pay a certain sum of money and at the end of a fixed period the locomotive is paid for in full. Equipment securities have a high value on the markets in New York. Part of the money for equipment trust obligations of the Canadian National lines, the Canadian people paid last year, which is usually paid out of revenues, was paid out of a loan which the national railways obtained, in respect of which the government of the country gave its guarantee.

Now if as a matter of business, in other walks of life, this procedure which I have briefly outlined is followed, why should we not do it in respect of these great public buildings? There is the site to which I have already alluded: no building is on it, no taxes are paid, and we own the land. Nothing is done about it. If the Minister of Railways were dealing with the matter as his friends in the grain business in Saskatchewan are dealing with their problems, he would issue securities as they do. They issue securities in connection with elevators. How are the terminals built in Vancouver? They sell their securities in the way I have indicated. A short statute passed at this session, providing for this special form of loan, would give this country these public buildings, which would be far more advantageous than this piecemeal nibbling at it. Every busines man in the country would be grateful to the administration for adopting business principles in connection with these public matters, and such a policy would leave more money available for the pressing necessities of the smaller communities. And that is an important phase of the subject. I urge the minister and the administration to give this matter their serious consideration. It is true that some of us would probably suffer and our communities might be overlooked, but we could afford t.o have them overlooked temporarily if we knew that ultimately they would be reached by some process such as I have suggested, which would put the business of the country on a proper basis.

The time has gone by when we should continue to play with the matter. We on this side can do but one thing: we can ask for explanations as to these expenditures, and inquire what population is to be served and what the revenues are to be and whether or not it is in the public interest that the money should be expended. We can put on Hansard our views on the various items, but we cannot effect any change, although we may move to reduce any item. We might move to reduce the item, but we know perfectly well that the majority of the government is tufficient

in Strength and availi'bility to vote down any suggestion we might make in that regard. We might make suggestions that other communities be looked after, and all that will be done is that the evidence will be gathered together so that in the next election hon. gentlemen opposite will say, "Look at them; they are extravagant. They say we should spend more money instead of less." That is the way we are dealing with these things, and is it not time we should cease?

Just one thing more while I am on my feet, because I do not propose personally to discuss these estimates in detail. We have in Ottawa a supreme court building with a library the value of which has been estimated by a gentleman who seemed reasonably proficient in matters of that kind, at not less than $450,000. Part of that library is contained in steel stacks, surrounded by highly shellacked white pine, which is most inflammable. Some of these books are absolutely irreplaceable, because the editions are exhausted and we could not buy further copies regardless of the amount of money we might care to spend. In the meantime we have plenty of money for other things, but the supreme court building remains as it is. I apprehend that the supreme court probably will be inoluded in that long row of buildings which is to be built eventually, but in the meantime there it is. What a reflection it is upon us as business people! In what I am saying I am not trying to attach all the blame to this administration, but what a reflection that is upon us as a people and upon parliament! We have offered these suggestions to my hon. friend in the most kindly manner, and with no hope of making political capital out of them. As far as we are concerned we will receive no benefit from so doing; instead we may alienate some of our friends in Ottawa, yet we must face this condition and unless we do so it seems to me we are recreant to the duty imposed upon us. I am talking now just as I would talk if I were attending a meeting of a board of directors and discussing a business matter; if my friend the Minister of Public Works were there together with my friend the Minister of Railways, advised by the Attorney General, and if we were a business corporation, we would do just as I suggest. We would make the best possible terms with the financial houses to take our securities; we would put up our buildings, pay our interest, set aside every year the amount of money we would otherwise pay for rent; we would amortize the securities and own the buildings. Is it unreasonable if I ask the Minister of Public Works to deal with these matters during his

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brief tenure of office in such a way that his successor may find what he himself did not find, that is, the business of the department placed upon a sound, economic and common-sense basis? My hon. friend from South Huron (Mr. McMillan) would deal with it in that way if he were dealing with a cheese factory; why cannot we follow that method in carrying on the business of the country? My hon. friend from LaprairienNapierville (Mr. Lanctot) would deal with it in that way, and every day business men are following the same practice. We are not doing so, but I think we should ascertain if it cannot be done.

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LIB

Roch Lanctôt

Liberal

Mr. LANCTOT:

In answer to my hon. friend I will tell him that I do not need to do that, because I have no public building in my riding.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

I have no desire to delay the passing of these estimates, but I do think I should express my appreciation and I think the appreciation of every other hon. member for the very helpful suggestions' which have been made by hon. gentlemen opposite and for the manner in which they have been made. I cannot entirely agree with the first part of the remarks of the leader of the opposition, but I very sincerely appreciate the tone of his criticism, if it can be so called, as well as that of the other hon. gentlemen who have expressed themselves on this subject this afternoon.

The suggestion has been made that these estimates are prepared with some political end in view, and at the risk of having to meet my hon. friends on this side of the house from Quebec at six o'clock, I am going to refer hon. members of the house to the vote which we are considering now. We are dealing with an amount of $1,304,647, and in this vote are included a number of separate items. I hope all my hon. friends have copies of the estimates before them; if they will look at the vote they will see that it covers buildings in the province of Quebec. I think it is a fine thing for the country, if I may say so, that in votes for the province of Quebec no man even on the other side of the house will expect to find a great many items covering ridings represented by gentlemen across the way. However, I believe there are three Quebec ridings represented by hon. gentlemen opposite, and hon. gentlemen will notice that included in this vote is a Montreal postal terminal building.

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CON

Thomas Erlin Kaiser

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. KAISER:

The minister should not

reduce our numbers; we have four members from Quebec.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

I apologize to my hon.

friend.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

And 260,000 people voted for us.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

If my hon. friend will

look at the amounts being spent in Quebec, he will find that a postal terminal building costing $650,000 is to be constructed in the riding of St. Antoine.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Of course that is where

the building must be.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

That is where the government intend to construct it.

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CON

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

We hope the rest of the

people of Quebec will profit by this lesson.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

I think all the people

throughout Canada profit by the actions of this government. Then, in the constituency of St. Lawrenoe-St. George $14,005 is being spent, and an armoury costing $13,000 is to be constructed in the constituency of Mount Royal.

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CON

James Arthurs

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ARTHURS:

How did the hon. gentleman square himself with the hon. member for Southeast Grey?

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

I will just have to do

the best I can, that is all. However, of a total amount of $1,304,647 which is being spent in the sixty-five ridings of Quebec, about $677,000 or more than half is being spent in three ridings represented by hon. gentlemen opposite. Of course I do not mean to say that these items were included because these constituencies were represented by these three gentlemen.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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LIB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Everything except the

building.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

Except the building. And I think my hon. friend was well within the mark when he said it cost $200,000; my recollection is that that site cost in 1914 about $340,000.

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LAB

May 3, 1928