Well, Mr. Chairman, we have covered much ground since we started discussion of this general item earlier this afternoon. There have been so many questions posed and so many topics covered that I am sure hon. members of the committee would not expect me to deal with them in detail at this time. However, if they wish to have me particularize on the various specific
items later I shall be happy to do so. At the moment I feel I should confine myself to the statements of a more general nature made here today, and deal with one or two major assertions as well as one rather serious allegation that I thought was made.
At the outset I should like to commend the hon. member for Victoria, Ontario, upon his elevation to the important post of official critic of the estimates of the Department of Public Works. I wish him well in his task, and I can assure him we will always be pleased to have constructive criticism as it applies to this department. Notwithstanding the presentation he made, we had a great many other hon. members from the same party, ending up with the usual worth-while contribution made by the hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra.
I wish to thank all hon. members who have taken part in this discussion so far, especially those who were good enough to say nice things about the department. More particularly I wish to thank those who were kind enough to invite me to attend particular functions in their constituencies. My only hope in that regard is that I will be able to accept them before too long.
The hon. member for Victoria asked some questions about the trans-Canada highway, as did the hon. member for Comox-Alberni. I shall be pleased to deal with that in a few moments. First of all I should like to mention the property on Wellington street, referred to by the hon. member for Eglinton. I am sorry he is not in the house at the present time. He made an assertion that I thought was not quite in keeping with his usual fair approach to these problems, when he said the deal was negotiated by Mr. Duncan MacTavish, Q.C., who is at the same time president of the national Liberal federation. The latter statement is quite correct, and I am very pleased it is correct, but it is not a fact that he negotiated this deal. To my knowledge he did not appear in the deal at any time. I had no dealings with him with respect to this acquisition, and I have been told by officials of the department that they had no dealings with him in these negotiations. I am sure the hon. member would not wish to allow the impression he created this afternoon to stand.
The fact of the matter is that this property to which he referred, known as the Orme, Brock and Norlite property on Wellington street, was purchased some time ago by the previous owners as part of an estate. It included other properties. Subsequently the then owners decided to erect a building on the site which did not harmonize with the plans of the national capital planning board.
After due consideration the government decided to expropriate the property to protect that plan. The owners had no desire to sell the property. As a matter of fact, after we took expropriation action they endeavoured to recover the property from us, but the negotiations had then reached such a stage that after further discussion we mutually thought it would be in the best interests of the public at the time to have this property publicly owned.
Since the previous owners acquired the property they effected substantial improvements to it in the form of new elevators, a new front on the building and other general improvements of a costly nature. They had complete plans and specifications for the new building they intended to erect on the site, and of course we had to pay those expenses, as we had to assume certain other legal expenses and administrative costs, all of which were connected with the building.
The owners asked us at the outset in excess of $1,600,000 for the property. We did not accept that, but we invited independent appraisers, John Pitt of Montreal, and Appraisers Limited from Montreal, to evaluate the property and give us their figures. They did so. The figure submitted by John Pitt of Montreal was $1,462,863.74. The figure submitted by Appraisers Limited, Montreal, was $1,249,713.32. We ultimately settled for $1,328,849. I am convinced that the deal was in the public interest; that the public will lose no money on it, and that it will contribute greatly to the further development of the national capital plan.
The other project that I should like to mention is the one raised in the first instance by the hon. member for Digby-Annapolis-Kings and subsequently referred to by the hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra, namely the harbour development at Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. That port was designated as the eastern terminal of the ferry that was built to run between North Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Port aux Basques. The development of the harbour was undertaken by the Department of Transport and the Canadian National Railways. The Department of Transport requested the Department of Public Works to act as its agent and do the dredging, and that was done.
The Carson is a larger boat than the one that has been operating, and when the marine officials of the Canadian National Railways studied the situation preparatory to the inaugural run of the boat they concluded that the harbour was rather exposed. It was always exposed. Nothing we did to it made it more or less exposed than it was before.
There were then a series of meetings, some of which I attended. It was decided that 50433-354
further harbour protection was needed. It is not routine in the amount of money required, but it is a normal thing to protect harbours to the extent that harbour protection is needed.