Mr. St. Laurent (Quebec East):
Mr. Chairman, I think the most important recommendation in regard to legislation which was made by the joint committee was what it described as the basic issue of policy and jurisdiction in achieving the control of land use in the national capital area. The committee urged, it may be recalled, that the federal policy be exercised as far as possible through the ownership and use of property rather than by the assertion of any federal jurisdiction.
I think hon. members will be satisfied that we have faithfully followed the spirit of this recommendation in the bill that has been drafted. The government agrees with the observations of the committee that the major objectives now appear to be capable of a reasonable measure of fulfilment by this means provided we can have the co-operation of the bodies having jurisdiction in the provincial and municipal fields.
Of course it would be out of place to comment at this stage in the proceeding upon the details of the bill, but I think hon. members will find that the provisions are quite clear and that they do conform to the spirit of the recommendations. The provisions regarding the constitution of the commission itself should, we think, make it a more efficient body to carry out the considerably larger volume of business which it now has to undertake in connection with its duties.
It is provided in the bill that there shall be a chairman and a vice-chairman and an executive committee consisting of the chairman, vice-chairman and three members chosen by the commission from amongst its other members. The purposes of the commission have been, I will not say expended but they have, I think, been expressed a little more clearly and more specifically. They are such as would allow the commission, if it is provided with the necessary funds by parliament, to participate in the major recommendations of the commission with respect,
National Capital Plan
for instance, to the prevention of pollution of the waters bordering on the properties of the commission to the Queensway for which an agreement has now been signed between the provincial government, the city of Ottawa and the commission.
The purpose of this agreement is to participate in the provision of better communications with the other shore although there is no specific requirement in the legislation, on the recommendation of the commission, that another bridge between Ottawa and Hull is urgently required, the powers of the commission would be sufficiently enabling, if parliament were to provide the commission with the funds, for such a specific purpose. There would also be one provision allowing the commission to accept donations or bequests and to carry out the conditions attached by the donor or the testator to the use of such funds.
I may say at once that we are not proposing by this bill to make appropriations; we are proposing to set up a corporate body that will be entitled to accept and use such funds as may be provided and we have felt that it would make for better accounting practice to have the recurring administrative expenses of the commission provided for by an annual vote, such as the estimates which departments have to bring forward, setting out the requirements for the year. There probably will be, at least many hope that there will be, the appropriation of capital sums to be placed in a fund to be used only for capital purposes.
With respect to the acquisition of lands for the purpose of controlling their use, there will be in the bill provision that the commission may borrow from the Minister of Finance after there has been appropriation by parliament for such loans, to make loans, for the capital purpose of acquiring lands not immediately required for immediate use. These loans are to be current during such time as the commission would be holding the lands which would then be repaid out of the capital fund when the lands are taken for use by the commission.
While this is an enabling power that could be used if parliament sees fit to authorize such loans for the acquisition of lands, it would assist in implementing arrangements made with the provincial and municipal authorities to secure this green belt that is a part of the capital plan. It was however felt that in this revision of the act it would not be proper to ask parliament to make any long-term provisions of funds but that that would be a matter to be dealt with annually, for the operation of the commission, which, as hon. members know, takes
care of a lot of government property. It does, not exactly the housekeeping but the landscaping and gardening work that the government would otherwise have to do and it is for the purpose of avoiding the setting up of two organizations to do the same kind of work, paid out of the same federal funds, that this commission has been doing it.
We would expect that there might be, as there have been in the past, lump sums appropriated annually to be put into the capital fund and to be used only for capital purposes. All the recurring expenditures, however, are to be provided by an annual vote, as I have already mentioned, in the same way as the administrative votes for each of the government departments. This, of course, will provide an annual occasion to consider what is being done and how it is being done.
It would be this government's intention, if it is returned to office, to introduce a bill at the first session of the new parliament. In the meantime the privy council office serves as the channel of communication between the commission and parliament. We would be grateful if members, after having considered the bill and having suggestions to improve the form of it, would make at their convenience such recommendations as they feel disposed to make.
This is a matter which I believe all members of the house have been satisfied to have dealt with by the joint committee as an absolutely non-partisan measure. I hope in the future that such matters as have to be dealt with by the house in the common interest of making the best practical provisions for the national capital will continue to be dealt with in the same spirit. This spirit was very evident in the operations of the joint committee which sat during the last session and it has been evident in other joint committees previously dealing with the affairs of the federal district commission.
We hope that by having the bill read the first time now it will be available for distribution, not only to hon. members but to those of the public who are interested in the activities of this commission. That is why I am stating that whoever happens to be constituting the government when parliament reassembles will, I am sure, be appreciative of any suggestions which in the meantime are sent to the privy council office with the object of improving this bill in order that when it is brought forward again it may be the best legislation which those responsible for considering it here and in the other place can possibly devise for the purpose of realizing
this important objective of further establishing the national capital of a country which is going to last for a long time, which is rapidly increasing in population, in industrial and commercial activity, and also, I hope, in the activities of the mind or those concerned with the aesthetic side of human nature.
Subtopic: MEASURE TO CONSTITUTE NATIONAL CAPITAL COMMISSION