Distinguished as were
members of the committee, and valiantly as they worked, I do not think any person would contend, least of all members of the committee, that in the few sittings held they could outline or lay the basis of a definite scheme. I believe that as preliminary legislation the bill is well advised; it affords opportunity for further study and for an examination of all the factors which should be considered before defining a vast national housing scheme. It may very well be that there is some opportunity for immediate construction. But the point to which I wish to address myself for a few moments is not how we are going to build, not how we are going to finance that building but where we are going to build. The hon. member for North Winnipeg (Mr. Heaps), the hon. member for East Hamilton (Mr. Mitchell) and other hon. members have spoken as if of necessity construction must take place in the urban centres. If one examines figures now available concerning unemployment he will see that unemployment is found almost exclusively in the larger centres of population, and while a vast program of construction might furnish temporary employment for those unemployed craftsmen susceptible of absorption into the building trades, there is no guarantee of perpetual work in those centres in which homes may be erected. It may well be that by providing homes for large sections of the population in places where there is no permanent work we would be perpetuating unemployment. As the hon. member who spoke last (Mr. Mitchell) was addressing the house I reviewed rapidly figures which I believe have been made available to eveiy hon. member, and which show the number of people on relief in various centres of the dominion. I turn to Hamilton: I admit that a proportion of the unemployed in that city might be absorbed into the building trades, but I believe it is a fact that to no inconsiderable extent unemployment in that city is a result of stagnation in the manufacturing industries which depend for their activity upon foreign markets. I shall say only a word about Hamilton, because I prefer to speak about Montreal, with which I am more familiar. At the moment it is difficult
Housing Act-Mr. Hackett
to see how we are going to regain those markets so long as the commodities we offer are being produced in large quantities by nearly every country. If we restrict to the cities a great proportion of a building program I fail to see how we can make such a program beneficial to the whole people.
For instance, I find that in Hamilton 2,495 labourers, 269 machinists, 141 mechanics, 132 moulders, 152 steel workers and 177 in miscellaneous trades are on the dole. I point this out only to indicate that it is a shortsighted policy which assumes that even after we have built homes for them there is going to be work in that city for these people. I suggest that a wiser plan would be to construct homes outside the cities for those who have recently left the land so that they might find themselves in an environment where at least they could provide for themselves.
I have before me a document prepared by the Department of Social Research of McGill university and which, I believe, was given to all hon. members when the mayors visited the city of Ottawa. This document discloses that in greater Montreal, with a population of 1,149,900, there were 213,263 on relief, and that $6,049,100 was expended by government last year for their maintenance. It furthermore shows that since 1930, $175,794,000 has been spent in providing for people who are out of work. I suggest, as I have frequently done in the last three or four years, that the only permanent and effective cure for unemployment is to remove from the cities a very substantial element that has recently found its way into the cities and to put them where they can provide for themselves. It is beside the question to cite the example of Great Britain, which is a highly industrialized and densely populated country, with a very small area. The last speaker made some reference to Austria. Austria now has a very restricted territory with a capital city whose population, if my memory serves me well, constitutes nearly half the population of the entire country. The housing problem of such a country cannot be compared with our problem and should not be referred to by people who are seeking the benefit of useful experience acquired elsewhere.
I submit, Mr. Speaker, that a building program is an excellent thing but it is folly to assume that this building should be carried on in its entirety in the cities. We talk about slum clearance; I suggest that it is much better to take people away from these sordid conditions, away from unemployment, and put them into organized communities outside the cities, and build them homes where they will cost less than they do in the
cities, and where on a few acres of ground these people can at least provide for themselves the essentials of fuel, raiment and food. It is not necessary that these people should engage in farming on a large scale, but it is essential that they be free from the corroding inactivity and the many temptations which result from herding unemployed men in large cities. I therefore hope that whatever may be done, no definite program will be undertaken until a thorough canvass has been made of the whole situation, and that it be made a part of a definite plan to reestablish equilibrium in the country.