May 20, 1948

PC

Thomas Langton Church

Progressive Conservative

Mr. T. L. CHURCH (Broadview):

I have not taken part in the debate on housing so far this session. I wish to say that I have made it a rule of life to try to get on with people, whether individuals, corporations, railways or municipalities.

With regard to Bill 280, which is before the house for second reading, I believe that there should be read into it the cause and effect of the proposals it makes. Lack of housing is not a local matter; it is not a national matter; it is an international matter. It is a world matter which has been brought about by two long wars and a depression. No allowance was made for the subsequent increase in population. Transportation, electric light, power, water and sewers are municipal services, along with other agencies, which are necessary in any solution of the housing problem in the larger cities of this country.

I remember away back when we did not own the Toronto street railway. We had a privately-owned railway in only half of the old part of the city. What was done between 1915 and 1921 was this. We built civic car lines in the new part of the city. Let us suppose that the old city is on one side and the dividing line of Toronto is in the centre. We took over the Toronto street railway in 1921 when their franchise expired. I was much pleased with the 104 members who were in the city the other day, because as they travelled about our city and out to Oakville they saw the tremendous strides which have been made in housing, even during the period between the two wars and after the last war. I was surprised to see it myself because I had not seen recently as much of the surrounding district as I had before the last war started.

National Housing Act

I am in favour of the government carrying out its present plans or any arrangement it has with the municipalities for slum clearance and other matters having to do with housing, because without adequate housing there would be no public health, notwithstanding the health security programs announced by federal and provincial and civic authorities. The first duty of a government, as I see it, is to look after the health, wealth, peace, happiness and prosperity of its citizens. All the various statutes, plans, blueprints and other remedies which have been proposed by municipalities, provinces and the federal government, cannot be carried out because of the lack of materials and of labour. It shows that in a national sense we have been unable to make, on a percentage basis, any real contribution to solving our national housing difficulties. For the reasons I have given, to provide housing should be the national function of the government.

We are in very difficult days. At a time like this, when we are in an emergent condition, the federal power should deal with the situation. In my opinion housing should be a national problem because the government have almost unlimited methods of finding revenue. They have also control over immigration, tariffs and trade, banks and banking. They can bring anyone they wish into this country. That power is given to them under section 91 of the written constitution which this country obtained in 1867.

Through the medium of Bill 280 another housing act is to be passed, amending the National Housing Act, 1944 and 1945. In this bill are set out the powers of approved lending institutions. They may take steps to safeguard mortgage securities and indebtedness. The bill also gives powers to enter into contracts with builders, and to guarantee rentals from rental housing projects. The terms and conditions of such undertakings are also given. The bill deals with rents for rental housing projects in the form of mortgages, terms of contracts and transfers. It deals with the transfer of property of Wartime Housing Limited to the new corporation. In spite of all these many statutes which have been passed since this housing matter was first brought up, there is still a national housing problem in the urban, rural and suburban areas. Things have been so mixed up by all these various statutes that the municipalities are in a quandary.

I would give some constructive suggestions to the minister and to the government. I have had a great deal of experience, notwithstanding what the hon. member for Parkdale (Mr. Timmins) said. Probably I have had a vaster experience than anybody in the house, 5849-267

because I dealt with one of the largest agencies of housing, namely, transportation. We took over the street railway which served only the old city. We built a new civic railway for the new half of the city and linked the whole city up in the new system. I do not know any constituency which owes so much to the vision of public ownership as ward 6, which is part of the constituency represented by the hon. member for Parkdale. I remember when they had no harbour improvements on the waterfront in that ward. They had the Mimico section of the York radials, running from the old Sunnyside level crossing-a death trap. They had the Toronto suburban running through wards 6 and 7 to Guelph. In 1920 these were all included when we purchased the York radials, and that was a great aid to housing. I described what happened in my friend's own district. The most important thing was the building of a railroad, city car lines in the new part of the city north of Bloor street and St. Clair avenue. We built the city car line system from 1915 to 1921 and it had a beneficial effect on housing. Practically the whole district of wards 1, 6 and 8 and the north Toronto district were built up by it.

Talk about what was done by those who came into the house a few years ago! I am disappointed in some of the young men who have come into parliament recently. I venture to say that if some of them had had the control of the city of Toronto when I was head of the city council, Mackenzie would have got a renewal of the street railway franchise, because there was only one man in the council who opposed it, and one newspaper-the five other newspapers gave their support to the purchase deals. The action that was taken at that time, however, went a long way toward solving the housing situation in our city. The light and power franchises were taken over by the city and the Toronto Transportation Commission started with a civic system of buses and radials. The metropolitan railway on Yonge street from Lake Simcoe to the C.P.R. north station was taken over also in 1920-21. The Scarboro section of the York radials from Woodbine, on the Kingston road to West Hill was also made part of the T.T.C. civic system. The whole York radial was acquired by the city and all its various sections. The Mimico section, Sunnyside west of the Humber to Mimico, at the level crossing at Sunnyside, was developed after these franchises were removed. In that district there was only one road, which was very narrow, and that was the Lake Shore road.

I have been discussing cause and effect in the housing situation and the condition that

National Housing Act

existed between the two wars. Those hon. members who visited our city the other day got a bird's-eye view of the results of the inauguration of the street car system and the taking over of radials, waterfront improvements and so on, all of which contributed to the prodigious development of that city.

In the district I represent in the House of Commons today, Broadview, and in the Greenwood and Danforth districts, tickets on the new civic car lines in the early days were six for ten cents. The result of the transportation system which we established was the erection of thousands of houses. The hon. member for Danforth (Mr. Harris) will bear me out in that assertion.

All that work was done without any federal or provincial help at all. We inaugurated car lines, radials, buses, water service, sewers, police protection, health regulations and other benefits for the people in those districts, and the result was that many of the returned soldiers in Davenport and all the other ridings from East Toronto to the Humber started building houses for themselves, beginning with a cellar in the summertime, and then putting up one story. Neighbours would come and give assistance and in that way they would help to build a second and a third story. I am simply giving you cause and effect so far as housing is concerned.

My sole purpose in speaking this afternoon has been to try to give the minister some constructive suggestions. I am one member of the House of Commons, and I do not speak for this party; far from it. I leave that to some others who claim that they represent it. I will say this, however. I do give the minister some credit for w'hat he did during the war and even after, as I see what was done in our city. I am one of those who try to get on with people and to work with governments as with individuals.

I would remind hon. members of what took place in this house in June 1923. I was then chairman of the harbour board. I had a meeting until 3 a.m. with the government as to a settlement of the Toronto viaduct case with the two national railways. I acted for the city and harbour and discussed the matter with the then Liberal government. The result was that I marked it down from $37,000,000 to $30,000,000. Present were Sir Edward Beatty, then president of the C.P.R.; Sir Henry Thornton, president of the Canadian National, and Mr. Graham Bell, who was deputy minister of railways. I represented the city and harbour board and I showed them all the facts in connection with the viaduct

and my plan for closing certain streets and cutting down the whole cost to $30,000,000.

An act of parliament was passed at the end of June 1923 and work was later begun on the viaduct. The new Union station was finished, and extensive harbour improvements were carried out for twelve miles to the Humber river. Transportation by civic car lines, cheap power and other civic services in Toronto and suburbs are the main reasons for the success of housing after the taking over of the street railway.

In connection with the proposed purchase of the old Toronto street railway, it was supported by five of the six newspapers; only one paper, the Toronto Telegram, was opposed to it, and in the city hall only the present member for Broadview and one other opposed it. Had the deal gone through the people of Toronto would never have been able to take over the street railway or the radials, nor would they have been able to remedy the deplorable conditions that existed in our city and harbour or to give the services which hon. members saw for themselves the other day. I was the mayor and I piloted the civic bill for the T.T.C. through the legislature and nominated and chose the first T.T.C. commission. It brought about a vast housing improvement and made of Toronto and district a city of homes.

We need a steam suburban service in Toronto. Look at the service they have in Montreal and its aid to suburban housing. The use of commutation tickets between Toronto and Brampton, Oakville and other points should be extended.

After the first war, under private enterprise, many persons, including returned soldiers, built their own houses in the suburbs of the city. A great deal of building was done between the two wars, and much has been done also since the close of the second world war. The other day I was surprised to see the great development that had taken place on the Lake Shore, the Dundas highway, ward 7 and the Kingsway through to Oakville, in the matter of housing, mostly by private enterprise.

According to the report of the assessment commissioner, during the period of the two wars and until recently some seventy per cent of the people in Toronto city owned their own houses. It might be a small cottage, or it might be a two or three story house. Everyone wanted to own his own house, including the industrial workers, because of the cheap electricity, power, light, transportation, and the other public utilities.

I do not want to see our city become a city of apartment houses. In 1926 and 1927, and again in 1935, 1936 and 1937, I introduced a

National Housing Act

resolution concerning housing and reconstruction. One day it was debated from three p.m. until eleven o'clock, and again all the next day; and, as I said then, I do not always believe in cleaning out slums, though that should be done in some districts. I should like to see the contracts between the city and the federal government carried out to the limit, because I think the development around Regent street is a very good proposition. But as I said on other occasions, when you clear out slums a great many people do not want to leave the district. They are near their work and their friends, and if you clean them right out of the district they have to pile on street cars to get to work. That would make the position of our transportation system, which is overcrowded at the present time, even more deplorable. Persons getting on these cars and buses have been badly injured; others using the transportation system have been killed by motorcars.

I have seen some of these apartment house and housing projects. Not long ago I was in the city of Cleveland, and I saw some of the houses that have been built there. Some are occupied by returned soldiers; all kinds of people are mixed up together. The buses are so crowded you cannot get on them, even on Sunday. In a five-acre lot there must be several hundred of these houses, with thousands of people housed there. There you will find all kinds of people, some of them recent arrivals from Europe who cannot even speak our language. The people there are getting sick and tired of these small prefabricated houses. They tire of them in no time and want to move out, and certainly that is not a situation we want in our city.

I admit that in the district in the United States which I have mentioned they have done a valuable work and the houses are very good. They are well equipped with plumbing, like the houses of some of the ministers; they are sanitary; the rents are low, and all the rest of it. As I say, I do not want our city to become a city of apartments. It was not so between the two wars and long before, since the time of the hon. member for Danforth and the other hon. members who are here from Toronto. I believe we should continue to be a city of homes, particularly among the industrial workers.

If I had my way I would revive the old housing plan we had after the first war; the minister has something similar at the present time, I believe. Under that plan Canada lent money through the banks. Before the second war started Canada had lent $85,000,000, and of that only one-eighth of one per cent was lost.

I think there is a great deal to be said for the amendment which was proposed by the hon. member for Parkdale (Mr. Timmins); subventions, bonuses and subsidies are all right as far as I am concerned. I believe subventions and subsidies should be given to the municipalities. For low-rental houses that was done during the time I was head of the city council; buildings were assessed for about half their cost, under an amendment to the assessment act, and that led to a good deal of construction. But that has been abused, and I notice in the newspapers that some changes have been proposed. I would support some federal system like that under which the municipalities would get certain aid. It has ueen suggested there be provincial aid so that no taxes be imposed for two or three years, and other suggestions have been made by the provinces.

I should like to see the old principle continued of lending money through the banks. The purchasers obtained clear title, and the money was lent at a very low rate of interest. House plans were handed to them free, and as I say some $85,000,000 was lent under that scheme. A great deal of Leaside, parts of Toronto junction and right through north Toronto were built up in that way before the second world war.

There is only one amendment now before the house, because, as you ruled yesterday, Mr. Speaker, a subamendment cannot be moved until the first one is disposed of. I believe the time is past for any more conferences. The municipalities are sick and tired of conferences. Almost every train I have been on during this session has been carrying people to Ottawa to attend conferences. You cannot build houses with conferences. The day for conferences has gone by. The Ontario legislature has adjourned for the year; the city of Toronto has adopted its budget, and so have most of the York municipalities. Toronto some years ago gave assistance through the exemption of certain dwellings under the assessment act, and I believe we should give credit where credit is due for what has been done in the matter of housing-not enough at all, but it is a start.

I believe the government have done some good work. I have seen some of the houses they have built, and some of the apartments. In view of the scarcity of materials and labour this is a start in the right direction, and I am fair enough to say so. I do not believe they have done all they might, but here we see cause and effect; the lack of labour and lack of materials. Personally I think something should have been done to halt the con-

4196

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struction of some of these large bank and theatre buildings, where I believe they pay more for their material and their labour. As a civic official I had some experience with carpenters, bricklayers, lathers and plasterers, and I have been told they get better pay when working on banks, apartment houses, theatres and buildings of that kind than when working on small houses; and in addition their work is steadier. That may or may not be true; I do not know.

Then I think some assistance should have been given to make more use of Toronto island. I know what has been done at Belle Isle and along Lake St. Clair boulevard to help solve the housing problem in Detroit. The climate of Toronto island is good; sometimes in the winter it is as warm as it is in the city. If the government had carried out the proposal to build two bridges or a tunnel, that island could be used all year. As it is it does a great deal to lessen the housing problem during six or seven months in the spring and summer.

I believe one of the main reasons for our housing problem-I know because it has affected me-is found in the abuses of our housing control system. I had to part with some property I once owned. I did not need to sell it, but I disposed of it because I could not be bothered with the control system. You got a tenant in who signed a lease for no boarders; he turned the house upside down, let it go to rack and ruin, put in things not allowed in a residential district, profiteered and violated his lease; yet under the control system you could not do anything about him. So I parted with that property at a considerable sacrifice. If we could have some modification of that absurd control system I believe it would help the housing problem, as no one now wants to own real estate with such abuses. Under controls real estate has been permanently injured. It is an impossible system because it prevents private enterprise from building the smaller homes. Under our controls returned soldiers cannot get into houses they have bought with their credits and gratuities. So I believe that as soon as possible we should eliminate the control system as it applies to small houses. As the hon. member for Brandon said the other day fifty per cent is the law in New Zealand; it should be sixty per cent in Canada. For this year there should be a suspension of the building of skyscrapers for theatres and buildings of that, kind; and the labour and materials used for that type of building should be diverted to housing projects up to sixty per cent. It is true that the materials used

may not be the same in all respects as for banks and theatres, but those costly buildings do lead to higher labour costs and higher costs of materials in connection with the building of small houses.

I believe the doctrine of paying bonuses, subventions and subsidies is a good one; if it is applied properly it would solve all economic needs of all the provinces. As I said earlier, I did not intend taking part in this debate, nor have I done so to any considerable length. But I can tell you this, that we in the city of Toronto have been a very happy people. Those who visited our city the other day would find there a kind-hearted people, a people who have a keen interest for their country in their hearts. Our city was built by people of that description-people of all classes from all parts of the world.

The city council has been committed to a certain program' in connection with Regent street, and many other matters, and I hope the federal power will carry it out. I understand from the minister's bill that if any individual applies to the new corporation under Bill No. 280 he may obtain a loan up to ninety per cent. That fact has not been very well advertised either in the newspapers or over the radio. I suggest that there should be more extensive advertising of that fact. If it were known many people would apply immediately. We have something over four months before the early part of the winter-because we realize that immediately after the Canadian. National exhibition, early in September, the fires have to be lighted again in our houses. I do not know where many people will be next winter, in view of the great number of applications for possession and ejection which have been and are now being made before the county court judges. Not a day should be lost in building with labour and materials made available. The only way to solve the difficulty would be to have a sufficient number of small houses built immediately. I do not believe in the building of too many larger apartment houses. I would urge that so far as possible the government should get on with the work and have a large number of small houses built in the next four months -and there are only four months in which to do this.

I believe Toronto has done more than any other city in Canada along the lines I have stated in providing splendid municipal service. It has gone a long way in connection with the ownership of public utilities. It owns its street transportation system, and hon. members will be familiar with the Toronto transportation commission. Then, it has been, most active in the development of good roads, and has

National Housing Act

paid forty per cent of the cost of the Toronto-Hamilton highway. The city has contributed to the operations of the York highways commission, which has built a magnificent highways system of fifteen miles in the Toronto area, and which now should be revised as only enabling and assumed by the province.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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CCF

Robert Ross (Roy) Knight

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. R. R. KNIGHT (Saskatoon City):

Mr. Speaker, I had not intended entering the debate on housing, nor do I presume to be able to tell the minister anything about it. I do enter the debate, however, to take issue with the right hon. gentleman in respect of certain statements he made last night, and which, incidentally, he did not substantiate. I should hope he might consider substantiating them today.

I shall now proceed to give the other side of the picture, and shall refer to certain community enterprises which have been entered into jointly. I presume the minister would describe them as subsidized enterprises. They have been entered into jointly by the province of Saskatchewan with the assistance of the federal government.

The minister made certain statements about this housing and its success, or lack of success, when he spoke last night. I presume he was referring to certain community apartments which were built or remodeled in my own city of Saskatoon, and also in the cities of Regina and North Battleford, and other places in the province.

At page 4178 of Hansard the minister said, in connection with this subsidized housing:

The government has considered subsidized housing. It has built subsidized houses

And then he goes on to give an illustration. Speaking of this housing project, he said:

The management of the buildings was left to the province of Saskatchewan and the rentals collected are the property of the government of Saskatchewan. That would be an excellent place for a socialist government, which gives lip service

And I would rather he had left out the word "lip".

-to subsidized housing, to practise a little of what it preaches. What are the facts?

Well, sir, I propose to give the facts on one side, and the minister, if he cares to, may give the facts on the other. The quotation goes on:

Rentals for the housing,-

And it is these lines to which I take exception particularly:

[DOT]-largely paid for by the federal government, operated by the socialist provincial government, are somewhat higher than in corresponding localities in the rest of Canada. That is a clear indication that our socialist friends love to give lip service-

And there, quite properly, the minister was interrupted by vociferous objections from certain representatives of this group with such expressions as, "Give the figures". Then the minister said, "I know the figures" and again, "I know the facts". The minister may have them, but he did not give them. Therefore I should like to give certain of the facts on the other side of the argument.

Shortly after that, the minister said:

We know all about subsidized housing. The difficulty with subsidized housing is that it does not build any more houses.

I shall not go into that general argument; but I will say that these particular houses did give shelter to a great many people all of whom, I believe, were veterans of the last war. While I have not the figures for other cities-although I believe they are comparable-I know that in my own city of Saskatoon 185 family suites were provided. There are 370 adults living in those community apartments. They have been organized co-operatively, and govern themselves. They have an elected council. There is a communal dining hall and cafeteria providing meals for the residents. There are 125 small children, none of whom I believe has yet attained school age-although I am not sure of that statement. There is a supervising nursery provided for the children, and they also receive weekly medical health check-ups.

I would bring particularly to the minister's attention the fact that the rentals for these apartments range from $15 to $35 a month.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Trade and Commerce; Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

That is the highest return for an investment of anything I know of.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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CCF

Robert Ross (Roy) Knight

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. KNIGHT:

I presume there are other comparable communities in the cities of North Battleford and Regina. I should like to give what might be called personal testimony to this sort of thing, because we have the evidence of my hon. Mend and colleague, the member for Melfort (Mr. Wright), with respect to his son, a returned soldier who is married and who has one child. Those people lived at this apartment in Saskatoon, which is known as community apartment No. 7.

By the way, I should explain that these houses are reconverted from air force buildings brought in from air force field No. 4. This man and his wife, who lived at the apartment, paid $20 a month rent-and I would ask the house to note that that amount covered heat and light. They paid $42 a month for the board of the three of them-I suppose the board of the child would not be costly. In any event, the sum total for those three people, including laundry service, light, heat,

National Homing Act

food, a nursery service which would have allowed the mother, if it had been necessary, to go to work to help the family-all this was provided for $62 a month. I should be interested to hear the minister's comparative figures of lower cost accommodation elsewhere.

This is not the only case that I am thinking of. There is in the employ of this House of Commons a stenographer who lived with her husband, a veteran, in a community apartment house at North Battleford. They paid $30 a month for a three-roomed suite, and this included light, heat, water and laundry services. They have no children and she, too, could have gone out to earn part of the family income. I do not think this socialist government, which the minister speaks of in a rather derogatory manner, is doing too badly. This subsidized project is providing accommodation for people which cannot be obtained-and I say this with due respect to the minister-in any other place in Canada.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Trade and Commerce; Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

I call my hon. friend's attention to the fact that all the subsidizing is by the federal government.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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CCF

Robert Ross (Roy) Knight

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. KNIGHT:

I am not suggesting that we should not have subsidization by the federal government; I am suggesting that we should.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Trade and Commerce; Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

I was suggesting that not much subsidizing is being done by our friends in Saskatchewan.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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CCF

Robert Ross (Roy) Knight

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. KNIGHT:

I have put the case as I see it. I wanted to get that on the record, because I do not think the minister has been fair in what he has had to say about our government or about the accommodation we are providing for these boys. This lady to whom I was speaking this morning who lived in the North Battle-ford project tells me that there is a long list of people who want to get into these apartments. These are the only apartments in this country that I know of where a veteran can live on the present veterans allowance and be able to attend university.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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LIB

George James McIlraith (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Trade and Commerce; Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. McILRAITH:

Has the hon. member the capital cost of the building?

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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CCF

Robert Ross (Roy) Knight

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. KNIGHT:

I have not. I presume that that information w'ould be in the department and be more readily available to the hon. member.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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LIB

George James McIlraith (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Trade and Commerce; Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. McILRAITH:

I was asking a serious question because I wanted to follow the hon. member's argument.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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CCF

Robert Ross (Roy) Knight

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. KNIGHT:

I know that the Saskatchewan government paid the same price as any cither purchaser for war assets. I do not know

w'hether the Saskatchewan government was subsidized in their purchase of these air force buildings.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Trade and Commerce; Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

They were subsidized for the cost of fitting them up as apartments.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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LIB

George James McIlraith (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Trade and Commerce; Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. McILRAITH:

I presume that the cost the government paid was eight per cent, but I want to ask the hon. member if he knows w'hether that is so, or did they get the buildings for nothing?

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
Permalink
LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Trade and Commerce; Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

They got them for nothing.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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CCF

Robert Ross (Roy) Knight

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. KNIGHT:

Those figures are more easily available to the hon. member than to me. I do not know the facts, but I presume that the Saskatchewan government paid the same for the buildings as anybody else paid. I know they had tremendous difficulty in getting some of these war assets from the department.

Mr. JOHN T. HACKETT (Stanstead): Mr. Speaker, I will not be astonishing anybody in the house if I say that I am opposed to the amendment. I am opposed to subsidized housing for the same reason I am opposed to socialism. I do not believe it is in the interests of the people that their dwellings and homes should be owned by the government. I believe that that would give a new control to the government over the lives and activities of the people which would be a serious infringement upon the liberty and freedom to which we attach so much importance. However, there is nothing novel in this point of view and it is not the reason w'hich prompts me to take part in this debate.

The building of houses is taking place principally in the industrial centres. Earlier in the week I came from Toronto by air, and I saw the great number of houses that have been built just outside that great city and also the housing developments that have taken place within the old city itself. The clamour for housing arises from the industrial population. There has been some natural increase in that population, but the principal increase is the accretion to the urban population resulting from the industrial activities of the war.

When Canada was engaged in the war she made a most substantial contribution to the allied cause through the production of industry. As a result people who had lived on the land and in smaller centres came to the factories, which were largely, if not entirely, concentrated in the great cities. The soldiery returning from the front came to the cities, some of them with wives whom they had married abroad. They took up residence in the cities. To a considerable extent it is

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due to this accretion from the land and from the smaller centres that the great demand for housing has taken place.

I have not the figures before me. but the population of the province of Saskatchewan suffered a substantial reduction, while the population of centres like Vancouver increased at the expense of the rural areas. Greater Montreal now has a population of nearly a million and a half and Toronto must have a population largely in excess of what it was at the beginning of the war.

I am glad that the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) is conducting this bill through the house, because it enables me to ask a person who should know a question which I think anyone interested in a long-range housing program must ask. Since the war, Canada has greatly increased her industrial plants and it is the constructors and the future operators of those plants who are seeking housing today. If the people in those categories were properly sheltered the housing problem of Canada would be solved. Not infrequently the ministers refers to a long-range program.

I think it is relevant in determining a long-range housing program for Canada to know the likelihood of finding markets for this greatly expanded industrial machine. What proportion of Canada's total production depends upon foreign markets? We were told at one time that the United States consumed its total production less about seven per cent. We were also told that Canada had to export nearly forty per cent of her production or encounter unemployment and the trials and tribulations that go with producing goods which can neither be consumed nor sold.

I am assuming that the minister will be able to tell the house what proportion of Canada's production has to be exported to maintain full or nearly full employment in Canada. Where are the markets to be found that warrant, in the first place, the great increase in our industrial plant, and where are the markets to be found that warrant the construction of homes in the great centres of Canada for an industrial population that must depend for its existence upon the finding of those markets which can take from the Canadian producer the fruit of his labours? I hope that the minister, out of the abundance of his knowledge and experience, will answer this question fully.

Canada at the present time seems to be entering into international arrangements which are making it more difficult for Canada to trade. Canada has had in the past and to them she owes her prosperity in so far as it

was derived from her industrial activities- sheltered markets. I speak of the preference which we enjoyed in many markets as a result of the British preference. That benefit was so considerable that wise men from other countries came to Canada with large amounts of money which they invested in plants in the hope of sharing in the benefits of the Canadian position.

But those times have changed, and Canada has found it necessary to enact laws, applied by the foreign exchange control board, which deny to the foreign investor, who brought his money here to build plants that he might enjoy the benefit of Canada's foreign and sheltered markets, the right to take home that money. This goes to show that the investment is not considered as safe as it was a few years ago.

Moreover, Canada has entered into agreements at Geneva which tend to reduce Canada's tariffs on a number of commodities which are manufactured by her rivals for the markets of the world, and in particular by the United States. Britain, under the form of government which she now has, is not a serious competitor because life in Britain has become costly and prices under her present system of government have gone so high that she is incapable of competing successfully in the markets of the world with many nations.

It seems to me therefore that a long-range housing policy should be directed to finding abodes for people in places in which they can live when markets fail. How can we expect to enjoy foreign trade? Europe is bankrupt, and Canada, in my view, is suffering today from inflation, largely because she is making goods which she is giving to Europe. A great deal may be said of this policy from a humanitarian point of view, but from an economic point of view it is disastrous, because Canada gets no goods in return for those she sends away, with the result that our people cannot find goods to satisfy their longings, and prices of those goods which are available rise constantly. In consequence we have this spiral of rising prices.

Moreover, under the Marshall plan, to which Canada is subscribing, Canada is sending to Europe not only goods that can be consumed but capital goods, the very purpose of which is to set up manufacturing establishments to produce goods in competition with our own. I have no status to discuss housing in all its intricate details. I profess to know very little about the costs of sewer pipe, shingles, cement and other items which go into the construction

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of houses; yet I am forced to question a policy which favours the huddling together of people in large cities where they must starve if foreign markets fail. I suggest to the minister that a wiser policy would direct people to abodes nearer the land, where what is called, sometimes with a sneer, subsistence farming is possible. I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that probably ninety per cent of the world's population is yet devoted to subsistence farming. The government should not neglect this relationship between the individual and the soil from which he derives food, shelter and clothing.

I know it is not popular to oppose any policy of housing at a time when there is a great dearth of housing, and when, as has been pointed out by many speakers, suffering, inconvenience, disease and possibly crime may be traced to inadequate shelter in the big centres. Yet, this is a passing phase; borrowing again from the minister the words "long-range policy," which he uses not infrequently, I am bound to question the wisdom of his policy as a long-range policy, because the bill before us tends more and more to make the Canadian people dependent upon markets, the existence of which is not only uncertain but nebulous.

When the minister closes the debate I hope that he will be good enough, out of the wealth of his experience and information, to devote a few sentences to the aspect of the question which I have attempted to lay before the house.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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CCF

Frederick Samuel Zaplitny

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. F. S. ZAPLITNY (Dauphin):

I wish to say only a few words on this question, but I was very much interested in the speech of the hon. member who has just taken his seat, particularly the first sentence he uttered, which, if I remember correctly, went something like this, that he is opposed to subsidized housing for the same reason that he is opposed to socialism. I hold in my hand Hansard of May 5, in which the hon. member for Van-couver-Burrard (Mr. Merritt) made a rather good speech on the subject of housing. It is unfortunate that the two speeches from the Progressive Conservative ranks in this respect cancel out each other. I should like somebody in that group to tell us what the party policy actually is, because ours is stated in the amendment before the house. I want to quote from the record where the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard took the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. St. Laurent) to task for having made a statement at an

earlier time. I will quote directly from page 3644 of Hansard, where the hon. member said:

I want to call the attention of the house to a statement made recently by the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. St. Laurent) in a public speech. He said:

"No government of whieh I form a part will ;ver pass legislation for subsidized housing."

I do not know if he was speaking on behalf of the government in that speech or not. At that point somebody interjected: "Shame!" Then the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard continued:

That was a dogmatic and1 definite statement, and I think it is the mainspring behind the minister's recession from his enthusiasm in approaching this problem two years ago. That statement indicates a fatal refusal to face realities in this field.

There is nothing necessarily socialistic about subsidizing housing for the low-income groups.

Take the two speeches together. One hon. member said that there is nothing socialistic in subsidizing low-rental housing, and criticized severely the government for having backed up on that policy. The hon. member for Stanstead (Mr. Hackett) opposes that policy because it is socialistic. Is it any wonder that much of our housing legislation is as confused as it is? I should like to put on the record what the amendment before the house actually is, in order that it may indicate what the vote will be about. The amendment moved by the hon. member for Mackenzie (Mr. Nicholson) is in these words:

That Bill No. 280 be not now read a second time but that it be resolved that in the opinion of this house the government should give consideration to providing subsidized low-rental housing.

In other words, the question before the house is whether, in the opinion of this house, the government should consider the subsidization of low-rental housing or not. I have in mind the action taken about two years ago by the government in giving certain concessions to a company known as Housing Enterprises. In our area we had some personal experience with that company which, because it came under Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, was given the privilege of buying up certain airports, tearing them down and using the material for setting up housing units. The local authorities, who were interested in housing, were not given the same type of concession; yet this company, which was, after all, a private company set up by the insurance companies of Canada, collected much valuable material, much of which the company resold to other people at a handsome profit. In the end, after a certain bit of wavering

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activity, they folded up and nothing much came out of it. In other words, the policy of the government to date appears to me to be not one of subsidizing low-rental housing but rather of subsidizing private companies which are in the business of lending money to build houses to make profit.

The house will have to make a decision on that sooner or later. Either we are in favour of the government assisting directly in the building of low-rental housing for the purposes of the people, or we are not. When this amendment is put it will be interesting to note how my hon. friends of the official opposition vote, in view of the two directly contradictory speeches we have heard from that side of the house, one saying that subsidized housing is socialistic, and therefore he is opposed to it, in spite of the fact that it has been done in England for many years-

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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PC

John Thomas Hackett

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HACKETT:

And see where they landed.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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CCF

Frederick Samuel Zaplitny

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. ZAPLITNY:

As far as house building is concerned, I think the record of Great Britain compares very favourably with the present situation in Canada.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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LIB

George James McIlraith (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Trade and Commerce; Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. McILRAITH:

Not very.

Topic:   NATIONAL HOUSING
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT WITH RESPECT TO POWERS OF APPROVED LENDING INSTITUTIONS, ETC.
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May 20, 1948