July 1, 1955

PC

Wallace Bickford (Wally) Nesbitt

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nesbitt:

Mr. Chairman, I have just a very brief word to say. I should like to say at the outset that none of the suggestions I have to make reflect in any way on either the minister or his parliamentary assistant. I have always had the most courteous and considerate attention from both of them. However, the matter I should like to bring to the minister's attention is that of the procedure at the opening of public buildings.

I believe it would be a matter perhaps not of good politics but of common courtesy that when opening ceremonies are held for public buildings, such as post offices, the department, or whoever in the department makes the arrangements, should invite the sitting member.

Topic:   REAL PERRAS
Permalink
LIB

Robert Henry Winters (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. Winters:

It is wrong to try to create the impression that that is not done. It is done.

Topic:   REAL PERRAS
Permalink
PC
LIB
PC

Wallace Bickford (Wally) Nesbitt

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nesbitt:

The minister may be under the impression that it is done.

Topic:   REAL PERRAS
Permalink
LIB
PC

Wallace Bickford (Wally) Nesbitt

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nesbitt:

I may say that at the opening of the post office in my constituency last yepr I was not invited. I went anyway. It may very well have been an oversight.

Topic:   REAL PERRAS
Permalink
LIB

Robert Henry Winters (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. Winters:

It must have been, because many hon. members opposite know we do invite them.

Topic:   REAL PERRAS
Permalink
PC
LIB

Walter Edward Harris (Minister of Finance and Receiver General; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Harris:

Directly opposite.

Topic:   REAL PERRAS
Permalink
PC

Wallace Bickford (Wally) Nesbitt

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nesbitt:

The Minister of Labour, who actually was functioning at the ceremony, took pains to see me in the crowd and invite me up to the platform. As I say, it may have been an oversight. If it was, greater care might be taken by whoever in the department arranges these matters.

Topic:   REAL PERRAS
Permalink
PC

John Angus MacLean

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacLean:

Mr. Chairman, I have a few remarks which will be brief, because I shall

endeavour to restrict myself entirely to a few subjects which I feel can best be discussed under this item rather than under later items.

The first matter I should like to discuss for a few moments are the observations of the Auditor General with regard to the Department of Public Works, as contained in his most recent report. The Auditor General points out that the Department of Public Works is responsible for providing accommodation for all the other departments, either by erecting buildings or renting them. He goes on to say that in recent years expenditures in this connection have increased very rapidly. That, of course, is understandable. I shall cite one example. In the year 1949-50 rentals amounted to roughly $808,000, whereas in 1953-54 they were $2,237,000. The problem of arriving at some suitable way of having the departments which actually occupy these buildings made responsible for payments of rent or payment for their accommodation was considered.

There is also the very exceptional problem which the Department of Public Works has in providing stores for other departments. I think these stores are carried in the inventory of the Department of Public Works and are lent out to the other departments. The Auditor General observes:

In the course of examinations, it was also observed that the Department of Public Works reconditions furniture but not infrequently encounters resistance when a reconditioned, rather than a new, article is proffered to a department. Were departments required to pay for all furniture provided, a greater demand for reconditioned articles might develop.

That is an understandable problem, of course. I hope the minister will make some comment as to what consideration has been given to resolving this problem to the better advantage of all concerned. Personally I think if the other departments actually bought their furniture and equipment from the Department of Public Works and were responsible for carrying their own inventories, a saving might accrue.

The Auditor General also pointed out another weakness in administration which I believe obtains in most departments. He observed that sections of different departments might requisition or buy new equipment which was actually carried in store by another section of the same department or by some other department. He felt that a consolidated inventory of stores of some sort might be justified so that unnecessary equipment would not be purchased.

Having made these comments, I should like to direct the attention of the minister to another problem. Over the last few months

considerable interest has grown up regarding developments in the capital city of Ottawa, with special regard to permanent public buildings which will be built in the near future and their effect on the general lay-out. I have in mind such buildings as the national library and so on, and I wonder if the minister would be kind enough to make a brief statement at the appropriate time which would bring this house and the country generally as up to date as possible with regard to the plans for the near future in respect to new major construction jobs in the city and the immediate surrounding area.

Reference has been made already to the renovation of the west block. I think it is important that as much as possible of the present character of the west block be retained so the historic value of this building will not be lost. After all, it has a close association with our first prime minister and many other famous Canadian statesmen. I think it would be in keeping with other policies and programs being carried out by the government if as much as possible of the present character of the building is retained. If that building were to lose its historic significance it would indicate a trend contrary to that we are trying to create and maintain with respect to historic buildings generally. Even this session we had legislation to provide for the retention of buildings of historic value, and it would be running contrary to the policy which has been followed in the case of Laurier House and other buildings connected with former prime ministers and so on. I feel confident that the minister is fully aware of this situation.

Earlier in the session we had what I regarded as an unsatisfactory situation arise with regard to major expenditures for a large building which appeared in the supplementary rather than the main estimates of the Department of Public Works. I hope the minister will assure us that this sort of thing will be avoided in the future if at all possible.

I want to commend the minister upon the fact that since he has taken over the department there has been a most noticeable decrease in the number of meaningless items which appear in the estimates of the Department of Public Works. I think the minister is making progress toward the ideal situation where items will not be put in the estimates to be passed by this house and calculated in the budget requirements unless the money is actually going to be spent in the year ahead.

In that connection I should like to refer briefly to an example which I have mentioned already, the federal building now under construction in my riding. For a number of years we had items in the estimates for such

Supply-Public Works

a building, but no action was taken. Over the years all members representing the riding which I now represent put forward arguments that such a building was necessary, but those arguments seemed to fall on deaf ears. The minister is a native maritimer, and I think that pre-eminently qualifies him to survey this country which stretches from sea to sea in order to see things in their proper perspective. In any case the construction of this building is going forward and progressing most favourably.

I do not want to say anything more about this except to indicate that no doubt there have been occasions when members have not been invited to the opening of public buildings in their ridings. But in fairness to the minister I must say that it has been my experience to be treated most courteously in this regard. I was invited to and was present at the laying of the cornerstone of the new federal building in Charlottetown which occurred recently, and I was also at the opening last year of a public building not far from where I live but in an adjoining riding. Generally speaking this criticism of the minister is not valid as far as I am concerned, but I trust that special care will be taken to see that exceptions to this rule do not occur.

Topic:   REAL PERRAS
Permalink
PC

Gordon Minto Churchill

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Churchill:

Mr. Chairman, it was not my intention to enter into a discussion of this item until I heard the minister speak with injured innocence with regard to inviting members of parliament to attend the opening of public buildings. That type of thing does not worry me at all, but may I draw his attention to the fact that a year and a half or two years ago when the first shovelful of earth was turned in starting the new Winnipeg post office, which will be a rather large building when finished in the distant future, none of the members from the city of Winnipeg knew of this historic occasion until he observed in the press a picture showing the machinery at work, with the hon. member for St. Boniface officiating at the ceremony.

I just draw this to the attention of .the minister in the hope he will keep in mind that when that magnificent post office is opened, the members representing the city of Winnipeg will be invited. The hon. member for St. Boniface of course will be quite welcome. Although the members for the city of Winnipeg at that time may be still two Conservatives and two members of the C.C.F., they should be apprized of that occasion.

Topic:   REAL PERRAS
Permalink
LIB

Robert Henry Winters (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. Winiers:

There will be a cornerstone laying in Winnipeg on Tuesday for that same building, and I hereby invite the C.C.F., the Tory and the Liberal members from Winnipeg to attend.

Supply-Public Works

Topic:   REAL PERRAS
Permalink
PC

Thomas Miller Bell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bell:

Mr. Chairman, I have a few policy matters I wish to bring up on this first item. I suggest that there should be a complete review and reassessment of what are or what are not public works. I use the words "public works" in the broad sense.

I can think of three reasons quickly why I should make this assertion. First, there is a continuing maritime aspect to public works. We have in the maritimes, as the minister very well knows, a peculiar attitude to public works and assistance from Ottawa. Not only is it tied in with politics; it is tied in with our way of life, and has been for many years. Without attempting to explain this in my own words I should like to read about ten lines from the Globe and Mail of July 17, 1953, which explains it very carefully, in an article entitled "Canada's Stepchildren" by Richard J. Needham:

Over the maritime provinces lies the shadow of the dominion government-sometimes a rich uncle who spoons money out to them; sometimes a wicked uncle who exploits them in war and neglects them in peace. Certainly, the people of the maritime provinces are far more conscious of Ottawa than those of Ontario and Quebec. Some of them think-one is tempted to agree-that they are much too dependent upon its whims and wishes.

Of course that applies to public works more than anything else.

Second, perhaps the reason this is prominent in my mind at this time is the fact that there are so many large projects in the process of development in Canada. For instance, there is the St. Lawrence seaway; and I can think of Camp Gagetown, New Brunswick, the causeway at Canso and others. They only increase the problem of attempting to assess just what area and what department they are going to be considered under.

Third-this is perhaps the main reason I mention it-I refer back to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald of January 29 of this year, which says:

Federal estimates tabled.

$20 million works program in Nova Scotia provided for.

Then it goes into the details. On the same date I picked up the Saint John newspaper and saw:

New Brunswick may receive $2,946,000 total in federal works.

When the articles are read, I shall admit, they explain what the general headings refer to. We agree that these other large projects are important, but a maritime member wants to find out if his area is being looked after. The headlines in the Nova Scotia newspaper say there is to be $20 million for Nova Scotia, and the New Brunswick newspaper says there is to be $2 million for New Brunswick. Later on the New Brunswick situation was clarified.

The minister spoke at Moncton on March 21 of this year and said there would be $16 million for New Brunswick public works. I think New Brunswick should have as much as Nova Scotia, but perhaps that is not so much out of line.

Just to repeat briefly the point I am making, the minister has probably made many statements about what comes under his department, but I feel there should be some sort of agreement as to what are going to be considered public works when these statements are made to the press and when we are trying to assess the various works programs, as to what department they may be under in an area, and how much they affect us in the different provinces. I would appreciate a statement, because we are trying to follow matters, and these things are confusing. As I say, the matter has been explained, and I understand how it has levelled off, but it is confusing. We should have a reassessment of the meaning of "public works" when the words are used generally.

Topic:   REAL PERRAS
Permalink
PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

Mr. Chairman, there are two or three matters I should like to place before the minister before he replies to the various suggestions that have been made this afternoon and this evening.

The first one has to do with our own west block. There has been some mention of it during the discussion, and I understand that the government is proposing to remodel the building, leaving the exterior as much as possible in the form in which it is at the present time. The minister must know that there are some misgivings about this plan, on the ground that the west block is one of the historic buildings of Canada and that it should not be altered. I have been told that the west block was built before confederation and was used by the old parliament of Canada at a time when Canada consisted of the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

I suppose it is necessary to do remodelling, but would it not be possible to restore the office in the west block which was used for some years by Sir John A. Macdonald, the father of confederation. Apparently he directed the affairs of the young nation from that building, and it seems to me that if his office could be restored it would be an historic centre which would be a great attraction to the people of Canada who visit Ottawa.

As the minister knows, several hundred thousand people come through this main parliamentary building in the course of a year. There is no other building nearby which they can visit, and in this particular building there is nothing of an historic value,

that is nothing that dates back, of course, because the building was only finished early in the 1920's. This does seem an opportunity to make an historic centre which would have great attraction for Canadians visiting Ottawa.

Then, as the minister will remember, last year on the discussion of his estimates I asked to what extent his department was attempting to take over its proper functions. The Department of Public Works was originally set up to construct the buildings, harbours and other public works of the country, but during the war years and in the years after the war that function was taken over to quite a large extent by other departments. The minister will realize that in the Public Works Act, which sets up his department, there is a very clear definition in section 9 of his responsibilities:

The minister has the management, charge and direction of the following properties belonging to Canada, and of the services in this section enumerated, namely:

(a) The dams, the hydraulic works, the construction and repair ox harbours, piers and works for improving the navigation of any water,-

And the minister might point this out to his associate, the Minister of Transport:

-and the vessels, dredges, scows, tools, implements and machinery for the improvement of navigation;

Then it goes on:

(b) the slides, dams, piers, booms and other works for facilitating the transmission of timber-

This statute goes back many decades. Of course the minister no longer is obliged to worry about booms of timber. Then it lists roads and bridges, public buildings, telegraph lines, and so on. It is true that in subsequent sections there are provisions whereby the responsibility for some of this work can be handed over to other departments; but less than a month ago the minister himself, when speaking in Toronto to the Canadian welding society, made a statement which was reported as follows:

Mr. Winters said his department is responsible for only about 40 per cent of government building, most of the remainder being constructed by the crown-owned Defence Construction Limited for the defence department and by the transport department.

I do not know where the minister obtained that figure of 40 per cent. It seems to me that he actually is not responsible for that large a percentage of government construction.

I have here the "Summary of Standard Objects of Expenditure" for the fiscal year 1955-56, and I find that one group of items is entitled "Construction or acquisition-buildings and works, including land". From it we find that the Department of Public Works

Supply-Public Works

is asking for approximately $85,600,000 under that heading, but the total amount asked for by the other departments, exclusive of the departments of defence production, national defence and civil defence, is almost twice as much, namely $165,800,000. I am just using the round figures.

Here are what some of the other departments are asking for. For example, transport is asking for $29! million as against public works $85| million. Agriculture is asking for over $11 million and northern affairs and national resources for over $7 million. Atomic energy is asking for over $6 million, citizenship and immigration for over $5 million, and so on. I shall not give any other figures. The Department of Public Works is getting only slightly over half of the total amount to be voted this year for the construction or acquisition of buildings and works, exclusive of buildings and works for the defence department, the defence production department and for civil defence.

Then we turn to those figures, and we find that they are more than the total that is being voted for what I might call the civilian departments. For example, for defence production the amount is over $8 million and for national defence it is $161! million. Then there is a small amount for civil defence. The total for the defence projects is $172 million. It therefore does not leave the minister in a prominent place so far as public works in Canada are concerned.

I admit that his department spends some money for other departments. The last report for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1954, shows that the Department of Public Works spent nearly $12 million for other departments. But even taking that fact into consideration, there are millions and millions of dollars being spent by other departments for public works. I should like the minister to explain what steps have been taken by him or by the government to cut down on the works constructed by these other departments, which are not building departments, and to place that work in his Department of Public Works.

This afternoon we were told about what appears to have been a serious mistake in Newfoundland in connection with the harbour at Port aux Basques. The reports indicate that the Department of Transport, the Department of Public Works and the Canadian National Railways were all involved; but whoever is to blame, you cannot get away from the fact that millions of dollars have been spent to build a new ferry, that millions of dollars have been spent to build docks and on work in the harbour, and that when the whole thing is done here is the

Supply-Public Works

net result. This is a quotation from the deputy minister of transport:

Of the hitch generally he said:

"We had our engineers on the project. The C.N.R. had its experts on the docking and loading facilities, and the public works department had its technicians.

"We didn't realize what was going to happen until the work had been completed.''

We now find that the ship cannot be docked at the port. It is going to have to go 190 miles farther to get a port where it can dock; and some department-presumably the Department of Public Works-will have to spend millions of dollars more fixing that harbour. The suggestion is that they will have to put back in the reefs they blew up. That suggestion may be right or it may be wrong; but I suggest that if the responsibility for that work had rested where it should have rested, namely with the Department of Public Works, then at least there would not have been the necessity for plans being worked out between two departments, and the government might not have fallen between these two or even three stools as seems to have been the case. I think that is a good example indicating why the Department of Public Works should be given the work it was intended to do under the statutes of Canada.

So far as defence construction is concerned, I am afraid that is another case of the Minister of Defence Production reaching out and grabbing powers wherever he can find them. He has got into this construction business right up to the hilt, until he is going to spend for defence construction as much as all the other departments put together are spending for public works. Surely many of these defence projects could be built by the Department of Public Works.

In the annual report of Defence Construction (1951) Limited, which is the crown corporation which does the work for the Minister of Defence Production, I was astonished to read that Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which is under the Minister of Public Works, turned over the supervision of a great number of defence construction projects to this crown corporation under the other department. The result was, of course, that the total staff of Defence Construction (1951) Limited went up from 101 to 579, of whom 201 were Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation employees who were transferred from the Department of Public Works.

There may have been a good reason for transferring them to this crown corporation under the Department of Defence Production. However, I believe the time has come for the Department of Public Works to do

IMr. Green.]

the bulk of these jobs. Having the two departments in that field results in duplication. If the Department of Public Works is capable of doing the work, then it should be doing it. If it is not capable of doing the work the house should know about it, and something should be done to improve the department.

After all, we are living under conditions which are not temporary. They are going to continue for years and years ahead. Let us get back to the ordinary basis of doing work of this kind and get as much of it as possible under the Department of Public Works. I hope the minister will explain to the committee whether the government has taken any steps to bring about a change in the direction I have mentioned.

Then there was a criticism of the minister's department contained in the report of the Senate standing committee on finance dated June 16, 1955. In that report I find this statement:

We draw attention particularly to significant increases in the numbers of civil servants with special reference to the Department of National Defence and-

This is the part that affects the minister. -to high costs connected with the construction of new buildings and the reconstruction of old ones.

On the following page there are these words:

The figures relating to the costs of certain public buildings in Ottawa are cited as an example of the increasing expenditures connected with government buildings everywhere.

Then they list the costs of some of the buildings in Ottawa. I shall not go over them, but of course the one which cost the most by far is the printing bureau. The senators have reported that it is to cost $14 million. That includes the site, the building, $150,000 for landscaping and $250,000 for furnishings and equipment. I understand this building has cost a great deal more than the original estimate, and I wish the minister would take it as an example and tell the committee why it is that the government buildings are costing such very large amounts.

I should also like to say one or two words in connection with the matter raised by the hon. member for New Westminster. He mentioned that Senator Reid had reported that the office of the public works department had been moved from New Westminster to Vancouver because New Westminster riding had defeated the Liberal candidate in the last general election. Senator Reid has been in public life in British Columbia for many years. He was elected to this house in 1930, and he is not given to making statements off the cuff. That was his explanation of why

Topic:   REAL PERRAS
Permalink

I, 1955


the office has been moved from New Westminster to Vancouver. I think the minister owes it to the house to explain whether or not that is the case and, if not, to give the reasons for the removal. There have been other examples of the government playing politics in New Westminster riding. Just this year the Postmaster General's department changed the name of a post office and sent a wire to the defeated Liberal candidate so he could announce that the name had been changed. That sort of thing has been going on in the riding, and it is no wonder that the people would pay some attention to the statement made by Senator Reid. Would the minister bring us up to date with regard to the Marpole bridge over the north arm of the Fraser river? He will remember we discussed that matter at some length earlier in the session. So far as I know the present position is that the dominion government has $400,000 burning a hole in its pocket, but will not pay it over to the provincial government toward the cost of the bridge unless the provincial government will agree to build a bridge that will be free of tolls. I need not repeat to the minister the arguments we have made in favour of the dominion contributing one-third of the cost of the bridge. They are of course largely based on the fact that the bridge is the only possible connection to the international airport. We would like to know what the stand of the dominion government is at the present time with regard to the bridge. There does not appear to be any item in either the regular or supplementary estimates to provide for any assistance in the construction. I think opinion on the coast was accurately summed up by the Vancouver Herald when it said in an editorial on April 21: The onus for the toll is on the federal government. If or when the federal government comes through with its proportionate share of the cost, the toll will be reduced or removed altogether. The people of that part of Canada have reason to approve the position taken in the editorial. In any event, we would like to know the position of the dominion government at the present time. Finally, would the minister explain what the present policy is with regard to the use of public works to relieve unemployment? Until last year we thought his department had a filing cabinet full of plans for public works which were to be built as soon as we had unemployment. We found last year that the cupboard was bare and that there were no such plans on hand. But has the government Supply-Public Works any method of helping to solve the unemployment situation through public works other than by perhaps timing some of the construction so it takes place at a time when employment on other projects across the country has slackened off? I believe the committee is entitled to know the present stand of the government on this question.


LIB

Thomas Joseph Kickham

Liberal

Mr. Kickham:

Mr. Chairman, I feel I should not let the opportunity provided by the first item of the minister's estimates pass without expressing to the minister the appreciation of the people of the southern part of my county for the splendid federal public building which was completed last year, and in respect of which the hon. member for Queens said he had been invited to be present at the official opening. The minister was not able to be present at that opening, and he passed on that very pleasant task to me.

I also want to say a word of commendation and congratulation to the architects of the Department of Public Works for the splendid design provided in their plans for the building. The property is well landscaped, and I can say without hesitation the building is one of the best in that part of our county. It is the pride of our citizens, and I again congratulate the architects who drew the plans for the structure and also the officials of the Department of Public Works for the splendid co-operation I have had.

Now the Post Office Department is thinking of building an extension to the present post office building at Souris. The new building is to provide space for customs and fisheries. After some consideration the Post Office Department have decided that it would be long-range economy to construct a new building and have so recommended to the Department of Public Works. Our difficulty is that the present building is fairly good, but the rapid growth of the town has rendered its capacity much too small. The difficulty is that while the municipality would like to obtain the building, it is very poor. As I have learned from discussions in this house, it is in the same position as the rest of the municipalities across this dominion.

I share the minister's concern in this respect. Were the Department of Public Works to select one of the three sites that are now available they would provide much greater accommodation than the present site, which only provides 60 feet parallel to the main street. In my own mind, and in the minds of the people of the municipality, such a site would not provide a building in keeping with modern construction. Here is our difficulty. I have new prices, but I am hesitant about passing those on to the minister because possibly at the next session some

Supply-Public Works

of our opposition friends will ask of the Minister of Public Works, what did the municipality in eastern Kings county, Prince Edward Island, get for the old site, and what did they pay for the new one? We only hope we can carry on negotiations until such time as we can have the new building constructed on a site that will be in keeping with what we feel we should have at this stage of modern construction. We could, of course, go ahead and expropriate, but I do not think either the present minister or the former minister of public works favour expropriation where they can make some reasonable arrangement for sites that are desired.

I know the minister hears very many complaints, but I think that is largely because most opposition members speak on these estimates. I do not take very much of the time of the house, and I think it should be a little more satisfying to the minister to have some Liberal members get up and make a few congratulatory remarks. I heard the hon. member for Saint John-Albert and several other members from the maritimes speak on the first item of the departmental estimates, and they usually utter words of condemnation and criticism. I do not feel the Department of Public Works makes any differentiation between the Atlantic provinces and Prince Edward Island. During the war years essential materials such as creosote and steel were needed by the defence department. I think it was only in 1952 that steel was removed entirely from the restricted list.

Prior to 1952 the Minister of Defence Production had to give permits for steel to be used in essential civilian construction. It is only within the last two or three years that steel, creosote and other essential building materials have been taken off the restricted list. I feel that largely accounts for the fact that the federal public building now being constructed in Queens county was deferred for some time. I can say to this house that our public works in Prince Edward Island are pretty well maintained.

Topic:   I, 1955
Permalink
PC

Thomas Miller Bell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bell:

I did not interrupt the hon. member for Kings on a point of order, but I did not say, particularly of the public works department, that I was critical of or condemned the department as such.

Topic:   I, 1955
Permalink

July 1, 1955