April 11, 1957

CCF

Erhart Regier

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

Mr. Regier:

Mr. Chairman, in this session of parliament we have not had much discussion on one of the major problems affecting most of the growing areas of Canada and especially affecting the people of the province of British Columbia. We have not had any amendments to the National Housing Act this year and we also have not had before us the estimates of the Minister of Public Works. I rather regret that he is not able to be here this afternoon but since most of what I have to say affects the responsibilities of the Minister of Finance perhaps even more than those of the Minister of Public Works, I am hoping that the former hon. gentleman who is in his seat will pay at least some measure of attention to what I and the group I represent consider one of the major problems in the country. If I am not mistaken in my calculation parliament in this session has met for some 70 days now. I have gone through the records and I find that on no less than 14 occasions hon. members in all sections of the house and even some on the government side have cast some doubt as to the wisdom of the present housing policy of this government and the effectiveness of the National Housing Act.

We began the year with some questions being directed to the minister concerned on orders of the day and for a considerable length of time we were faced with rather flat denials that Canada could expect a decline in housing this year. It took several weeks of questioning to wear down the resistance on the part of the government to the charge that was being rather widely made by various organizations from one end of Canada to the other to the effect that there was going to be a serious decline in the number of houses built this year. However, even though the government finally has admitted that there is going to be a decline in home building this year they have failed to admit as yet that the decline is a serious one and they have failed also to take any remedial action. We are now in interim supply which includes the estimates of the Minister of Public Works. We in this group regret that in his estimates there is not a larger sum of money allotted to the encouragement of the construction of more homes for our Canadian people.

Most of the remarks I have to make have to do with the subject of interest rates. Our position in the C.C.F. has always been that for most of the Canadian people the government should undertake measures that will make mortgage money for house construction available to prospective home owners at cost. We also realize that there are many

Interim Supply

The attitude of the government is a most interesting one. I have already placed on record the reply of the Minister of Finance to the hon. member for St. Paul's on February 6 when he expressed his pleasure that the anti-inflation measures which the government had undertaken were having some effect, as evidenced by the shortage of money available for housing. I thought that was a remarkable disclosure of attitude on the part of the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Public Works has not yet expressed his attitude. I feel-and I mean this sincerely- that he knows the situation and believes that some action is necessary. However, when he is faced with the attitude of the Minister of Finance, the attitude of the Minister of Trade and Commerce and the attitude of the Prime Minister, he recognizes that he is sitting only in the second row of the cabinet benches and is afraid even to disclose his personal opinion to the house.

X have mentioned the attitude of the Prime Minister. It is a well known fact that several years ago the Prime Minister announced to the country that he was basically opposed to the subsidization of interest rates either for the construction of homes or for loans to municipalities. On February 7, replying to the hon. member for Comox-Alberni he explained his views to the house. The hon. member for Comox-Alberni asked him whether in view of the high earnings of capital in the industrial development of Canada at the present time the Prime Minister still claimed that such things as housing were able, or apt, to compete with industrial development for money on the money market. The Prime Minister's reply, as given on page 1055 of Hansard, was to the effect that those who needed money for the building of homes would simply have to compete with the needs of industrial development for the limited supply of money available on the Canadian market. So, the Prime Minister has not changed his attitude.

Of course, the attitude of the Minister of Trade and Commerce is the most reprehensible of all. His address to the Canadian Lumbermen's Association as reported, I believe, in the Gazette of the 13th of March, is simply incomprehensible to the people of my province. He told the Canadian Lumbermen's Association, in effect: "Boys, you have had many good years. From now on times are not going to be so good. Don't come to the government looking for help, because you are not going to get any help." I dare say the Minister of Trade and Commerce would never have the nerve to make such a speech to the farmers of the prairies, because

those farmers are too well organized politically. Yet he thinks he can do it where the lumbermen of British Columbia are concerned, and say, in effect, that the government of Canada is not very interested in their welfare.

The minister told the lumbermen's association that for several years we have been building more homes in Canada per annum than the rate of new family formation would appear to warrant. We have never contended that the housing needs of Canada will be met simply by matching new homes created with the number of new family units being formed. We ended the war with a shortage of between 500,000 and one million homes, and we have done very little since, except last year, to overcome that housing shortage. Now the Minister of Trade and Commerce seems to indicate that as long as we build enough homes to accommodate the new family units being formed, everything will be satisfactory.

I wish to spend some little time in discussing the remedies which this government might undertake. We in the C.C.F. group are always prepared to support the provision of subsidies for those who cannot afford the standard interest rate. However, if this government wished, it could well float a social development bond issue to provide the money needed on satisfactory terms. If the Minister of Finance were today to offer 4 per cent on a social development bond, I am sure he could get a billion dollars in one afternoon out of our nation. That money would be most useful in supplying low interest loans for home building and also in supplying low cost money to our municipal governments.

However, even if the government does not want to subsidize interest on money used for house building, even though it may not want to float a bond issue to obtain low cost money for this same purpose, it could at least do what it used to do, and make 25 per cent of the mortgage money available for all N.H.A. homes to whatever lending agency is supplying the funds. That system went a long way for a number of years in enabling mortgage companies in Canada to supply the necessary funds, but so far the government has not even seen fit to go back and employ this measure which, as I say, was so useful for a number of years shortly after the war.

I would like to say something with regard to housing those who cannot under any circumstances afford to own a home. I noticed by the reply obtained by my colleague the hon. member for Mackenzie on March 6 that since 1945 this government has spent only $14 million, in six provinces only, for the purpose of supplying low cost rental housing to

these people who cannot afford under any conditions to buy homes. I think that is regrettable, and so is the tendency on the part of this government to blame the other levels of government for lacking initiative in this respect.

I know that several government supporters have gone about the country blaming provincial and municipal governments for not taking the initiative. They have been saying that the National Housing Act is on the statute books, and asking why these other governments do not take the initiative and get a move on to supply subsidies for low rental housing production. I feel that the government fails to recognize that even under the best of terms these other levels of government are just not in a financial position to avail themselves, as I am sure they would wish, of the provisions of the National Housing Act.

I feel, in closing, that Canada-or some Canadians at least-are at present enjoying a prosperity unheard of in Canadian history. That prosperity is not shared, and I feel that in a year such as this when there is more investment money available in the Canadian economy than ever before, it is a crime that we should not have money available to meet our urgent social needs for homes, hospitals and schools.

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PC

George Clyde Nowlan

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nowlan:

Mr. Chairman, this debate on an interim supply resolution covers all phases of government activity, and for a few moments this afternoon I want to discuss some of these matters from the viewpoint of the maritime provinces.

These matters have received much attention during the past few weeks. We have had more references, I think, to maritime problems, and to solutions, or purported solutions, to those problems than at any other time within the period I recall as a member of this house, or, I would say within any period that anyone else can recall no matter how long he has been here. We are appreciative of the attention which has been paid to these problems.

The budget speech referred to the question of maritime freight rates and provided some interesting suggestions with respect to cheaper electrical power, the distribution of that power and other problems related thereto. Then in one of the bills dealing with the budget the other night, namely the bill dealing with the tariff we had at the last minute the Minister of Finance supplying typewritten copies of amendments to that act to provide some protection to the potato growers of the maritime provinces.

As I say, it is all very original, very new and very refreshing. A cynic might question

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this sudden interest in the problems of the maritimes. After all, they are not new. They have been referred to off and on in this house for many years. Some of them have existed almost since confederation. Some of us on this side of the house and possibly some of those on the other side of the house also have been urging the importance of these problems and their solution for as long as we have been here. For instance, in dealing with maritime freight rates, I have been one of those in company with others who have urged that that act had outlived its usefulness and that owing to truck competition and various other factors immediate amendments must be made to it. However, no action was apparently taken with respect to those suggestions until now.

Certainly something has happened. After all, we realize the advantage of conversion and of people seeing the great light. Even Saul on the road to Damascus kicked against the pricks and saw the great light. Possibly the government on the other side of the house has done likewise. Whether this action was due to representations such as those which have been made here or whether it has been due to the finding of the Gordon commission, I do not know. For instance, in its report that commission suggests that economic conditions in the maritime provinces have not kept pace. If you compare some paragraphs of the Gordon commission report with those of the Rowell-Sirois report of 15 years previously you will find that the language is almost identical. There has been an improvement in conditions there but relatively they had failed to keep pace with developments in the other part of the country.

My good friend the hon. member for Bow River a little while ago suggested that possibly if the maritimes got rid of the old line parties and adopted one of the splinter parties it might prove to be the solution to their problems. I do not think many in the maritimes would accept that suggestion as a solution. Although my knowledge of western political history is somewhat vague-

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SC
PC

George Clyde Nowlan

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nowlan:

-I think my friend the hon. member for Bow River is a little bit vague in his memory because I suggest to him that there was a splinter party in the west, namely the United Farmers of Alberta which was as I recollect the political progenitor of his own party, and that when they were in power the bonds of Alberta were selling for less than 50 cents on the dollar and people were out on relief. I therefore do not think that the scrapping of the two major parties will solve all the problems of the maritimes. I do not think we in the maritimes would be

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prepared to swap the old line parties. Even it we could find oil wells in Nova Scotia, it might be a high price to pay.

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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:

Would you really take Social Credit?

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PC

George Clyde Nowlan

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nowlan:

No; under no circumstances. But we might organize a maritime party of some kind and give credit to the maritime party for the oil wells which had been found in the province. But that is all just aside from the point. Be that as it may, as I said there have been problems there. With respect to the old line party which is at present in power here, I want to say that in the budget and in the speeches which have been made during the last weeks it at least recognizes that there are problems there and to that extent we appreciate it. I am somewhat reminded of the Scottish grace which I read the other day. It is not original with me. I read it in the Financial Post; I think it was in McGeachy's article. It ran something like this: We thank thee O Lord for these small mercies which alike are unworthy of thy bounty and of our deserts. To that extent, at any rate, I am sure we can echo that Scottish grace and recognize that whatever bounties there may be, they are certainly no more than in keeping with our deserts. A cynic, of course, might suggest that this recognition of the problem might have something to do with political developments-even old line political developments- in the maritime provinces. I have even heard some suggest that in so far as the maritimes are concerned this should not be called a Harris budget but rather a Hugh John Flemming-Stanfield budget because it was after the election in those provinces and after the Gallup poll showed a substantial increase-I think about 5 points-in the strength of the Conservative party in the maritime provinces that we now have these bounties to which I have made reference. But whatever may be the reason for it, we appreciate what is offered. However, I think it should be brought within some proper perspective.

A great deal has been said about the proposal with respect to electrical development and the fact that a 30 per cent saving in cost could be achieved by the construction of these government plants and the installation of a proper grid system. Of course, there is nothing original in this suggestion. The Christie report, which was produced on behalf of the provincial governments some years ago, recommended as a possible assistance or contribution to the solution of power problems the installation of a grid system. It was doubtful as to the actual savings which

could be achieved but it said that it was worthy of consideration and everyone in the maritime provinces knows that. But for anyone to suggest, as has been done by some newspapers and by some propagandists on behalf of this government, that the construction of these plants and the installation of a grid system would result in a saving of 30 per cent in cost of electrical energy in the maritime provinces is simply sheer nonsense. I challenge any person who has any knowledge of the electrical industry whatsoever to say that any such saving can be made.

The only savings that can possibly be made are of course those on capital costs, assuming that the government of Canada can borrow money more cheaply than can a provincial government or a private company. To the extent that it saves costs in the borrowing of that money, that cost can and should be passed on to the consumer. Similarly, in so far as the grid system is concerned if it will enable or permit companies, in order to maintain reserves of power for an emergency, to be able to draw from one to another, then to that extent it also adds a saving in cost. If you add those savings, even on the most generous terms, I suspect you would get a saving of something in the neighbourhood of 5 per cent or 10 per cent. To that extent it is appreciated and it is helpful. But to say that it is a solution of the problem of the maritimes and thereby provide cheap power is, in my opinion, simply a play on words which is at least exaggerated.

There is one way in which I think a direct saving can be made; and for the life of me I do not know why the government has not accepted this recommendation which some of us have made in the past and which would contribute a direct saving at the moment. The proposed construction of these power plants, if and when that takes place, and the proposed installation of a grid system, if and when it took place, and the possible saving as a result of those two things are something for the future, something years ahead. But something which could be done at the moment-and which should be done at the moment-is the provision of subventions on the movement of coal within the maritime provinces. These thermal stations, if they are built, we assume will burn Nova Scotia or New Brunswick coal. New Brunswick stations naturally will burn New Brunswick coal to the extent it is available; but quantities are limited there and they will be drawing, we hope and believe, on Nova Scotia coal.

If you have a system of subventions on freight rates for the movement of coal within

the maritime provinces, you achieve two immediate ends. You effect an immediate saving on the cost of the coal, and that saving can, in turn, be passed on by the power companies to the users of power. The second thing you do is to assist the coal industry which is, as I shall show in a moment, in desperate need of assistance. There are two immediate ends which could be accomplished by this government in the solution of one of the most critical problems which faces the maritimes. I have urged this in the house before, and I urge it again now, that some step such as that should be taken immediately.

I asked the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources the other morning when he made the statement if the government proposed a subvention on the movement of coal within the maritime provinces. He said, no, the government did not propose that because the cost of oil was now so high that it was economically necessary for the thermal stations, if and when they were built, to burn coal rather than oil. Well, the cost of oil may be a temporary matter. We all know the cost of oil has increased actually because of the Suez crisis. What the situation will be in 3 months or 10 months is an entirely different matter. In any event there are stations, many of them in the maritime provinces, which are consuming coal today.

I think the Nova Scotia Light and Power Company, for instance, is a good example. It is a privately owned company and has spent millions of dollars on the installation of coal burning plants in Halifax and proposes the installation of more. In the past, before this crisis, that company could have obtained oil from directly across the harbour at a lower cost than it was paying for coal but it did not do so because it wanted to support the Nova Scotia industry. Now, of course, it is cheaper to burn coal. If the company received subventions, it could pass on the savings in the cost of electrical power to the people of the maritime provinces who are buying that energy. As I said, that is one direct saving that could be made.

In the discussion the other morning with the hon. member for Cumberland the minister suggested that there was some uncertainty as to where the power station would be built. There were discussions with the New Brunswick government which was proposing to build a station at Saint John. A suggestion has been made that perhaps it would be cheaper to build the station near the coal mine and have the power flow from the mine to the consumer rather than have the coal transported from the mine to the location of the power station at the point of consumer demand. This problem was pretty well 82715-217J

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settled yesterday with the publication of a report of a subcommittee of the Gordon commission. Apparently the Gordon commission retained a firm of consultant engineers to make a direct study of the coal industry. The firm made a report the day before yesterday, and it is very interesting indeed. A reading of that report certainly minimizes greatly, if not entirely, the importance which may be attached to this so-called grid system. This firm of consultant engineers shows it is much cheaper to transport coal from the mines to the place where the power is in demand than it is to manufacture that power at the pithead and transport the power by wire. The report says the line loss is so great that there is no comparison between the economic cost of one or the other.

That is a report of a subcommittee of the Gordon commission made, I presume, by a most responsible firm. It is a very imposing looking report which was brought down yesterday and it appears almost in full in the Halifax Herald. If that is the case, there is going to be no direct saving in the construction of a grid system at all. In fact, there is going to be a loss. There is going to be a loss in so far as the cost of energy is concerned in the construction of a grid system vis-a-vis coal, but there could be a marked reduction in the cost of coal if it is to be transported, as this report says it has to be. If the report of Urwick, Currie Limited the firm of consultant engineers in Toronto is to be accepted, then coal has to be transported from the pithead to the power station. In view of that report, why does the government tarry any longer with respect to the inauguration of subventions on the movement of coal? I suggest that is a question that is even more pressing now than it was before. It would result in a reduction in the cost of energy in the maritimes and would help the coal industry. I do urge again, as we have before, that a system of subventions be inaugurated at once.

The question of cheaper power is dealt with in full, as I said, in that report. I am not quoting from it, but as I have said the report states there is no comparison between the cost of the transportation of power and the cost of the transportation of coal. The report also gives a rather pessimistic and foreboding picture of the future of the coal industry. It says that the present prospects are that the coal industry in the maritimes will have to be stabilized at a production level of 5 million tons or less, and that will result in the displacement from employment of over 4,000 miners, with dependents, amounting in all to over 30,000 people. These

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men will be thrown out of work unless something is done to assist in the maintenance of the present level of employment in the coal mining industry in Nova Scotia.

I do not need to tell this committee how important it is to the maritime provinces to maintain employment in the industrial centres of Cape Breton, Pictou county and Cumberland county. It is all right to come out at the last moment with these rosy pictures of the construction of power plants, grid systems and things of that kind.

But if in the meantime we are going to have 4,000 miners thrown out of work; if in the meantime we are going to have 30,000 people dependent upon those who have to seek employment elsewhere, and that in the largest industrial area in Nova Scotia, what is going to be the future of the agriculture industry? Agriculture found one of its largest markets in the industrial area of Cape Breton. Something must be done to avoid a situation such as that. This problem is brought dramatically to the fore because of the report which was brought down yesterday. There is over $100 million in payrolls and local purchases paid into the mining areas, and when you think of the way that money turns over and the sales taxes and other taxes which are imposed because of those purchases, one can establish very easily from a purely mathematical basis that subventions, or even subsidies which may have to be paid, to maintain the present level of employment in the coal mines would be far less than the loss of taxes which come from the revenue derived from that industry.

This is one of the most important questions with which we are confronted, and it is one to which no solution is offered at the moment. As a matter of fact, this subcommittee report says, speaking of this coal mining industry, and I am quoting now:

We suggest that this is a major social problem which demands the attention of both the provincial and federal governments. We believe the first practical step would be to examine what can be done to develop secondary industries in the area, since this would have the double effect of supplying alternative employment and further markets for coal.

The establishment of secondary industries in the maritimes-does that not have a familiar ring? Have you not heard members in this house urging the government for years to take such action? Now we have a committee appointed by a commission appointed by this government saying that the first practical step would be to examine what could be done. Apparently they do not even assume any examination has been made of this problem yet. Certainly that is one of the first steps which should be taken, an examination

into the establishment of further secondary industries in the maritime provinces.

I read another subcommittee report of the Gordon commission last week. What does it say? As a result of the establishment of the St. Lawrence seaway, and therefore the cheap importation of United States coal down the St. Lawrence seaway to Montreal, along with the bringing down of the iron ore from Labrador, you will have a new industry located in Montreal which will nullify and wipe out the steel industry now located in Sydney, Cape Breton. This is a problem of practical and immediate importance. We get a vision of the United States coal coming down the St. Lawrence seaway into a market now occupied for a century, by Nova Scotian coal and the iron ore coming down from Labrador, relegating the steel industry of the maritimes to a very minor position like the coal industry. Thousands of people will be displaced from employment because of that action. This is something which requires immediate attention also and it is not going to be met in any way by any suggestion of building a grid system or perhaps considering at some time in the future, important as it may be, thermal units in the maritimes.

Then, the Urwick Currie report goes on to say-and this, of course, is something which the government, we hope, intends to deal with;

The basis on which rail transportation rates are calculated is against the establishment of new secondary industry and the need to re-examine the basis on which they are set may assume greater importance if industry is to be attracted to the province.

That is a matter of course which is referred to in the Gordon commission report. They said there should be increases in the subventions payable under the Maritime Freight Rates Act, and that there should be a complete study of the transportation problems in the maritime provinces. We have increases under the Maritime Freight Rates Act given through the action of this government. To the extent that this increase exists we appreciate it. I doubt whether the increase is large enough to bring the act back to the level at which it was supposed to operate when it was inaugurated after the report of the Duncan commission on maritime claims; but it is at least a step in the right direction. So far as I have heard no action has been taken up to the present time with respect to the second recommendation of the Gordon commission that an immediate study should be made into the entire transportation problems of the maritime provinces.

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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:

I said so in my budget.

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PC

George Clyde Nowlan

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nowlan:

We saw in the paper the other day that a subcommittee of the cabinet was

making some study of this matter. That is not sufficient. We have this reinforced by the report which was brought out yesterday. There must be a study of the transportation problems of the maritime provinces if we are to assist in the establishment of secondary industry there. So far we have seen no action, at any rate, with respect to that study. That is the situation in so far as the recommendations contained in the budget are concerned. We appreciate them as far as they go. They make some approach toward our problems, but the problems there are deep and fundamental and they are not going to be solved in any way at all by the approach already made.

I noticed the other day in the paper that A.P.E.C., the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, had waited upon the Prime Minister and had submitted a brief to him, the contents of which they were not allowed to divulge. It would be very interesting to see the brief because we know that most organizations that wait upon the government are only too willing to distribute copies of their briefs the next day; whether it be the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, or whatever it may be, their briefs are made available. In this particular case the briefs have not been made available, but those of us in the House of Commons have been emphasizing these matters for a long while. We have suggested some of the problems which I have no doubt are probably contained within the brief as well, but certainly those which need immediate attention.

There are other matters to which I should like to refer for a moment in addition to those which are mentioned in the budget. One action of this government which has prejudiced the situation in the maritimes is the universal restriction of credit across the country. We realize, of course, the inherent dangers of inflation; we realize that the government has a responsibility to deal with inflation and certainly this government has not dealt adequately with inflation. We certainly say that whatever the dangers of credit inflation may have been in other parts of the country, they have not existed in the maritime provinces. There we are suffering from a lack of credit rather than an overexpansion of credit.

I read the speech that the Minister of Agriculture delivered the other day in the province of Nova Scotia. He pointed out, for instance, that in the agricultural industry one farmer with adequate machinery can produce more than 19 farmers could have done 25 or 30 years ago; therefore, farmers had to modernize their farms, buy equipment and be effective productive units. He gave the

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number of farms in Nova Scotia. I have forgotten the number which he said existed there, but he did say-and I have no doubt he was well-informed by his own officials on the situation-that there were 10,000 farms in the province of Nova Scotia which required credit of at least $10,000 each to become effective units, and if they got that they would be contributing to the national income and would be raising the level of prosperity in the province of Nova Scotia. And yet under the Canadian farm loan board last year we borrowed a total amount of $263,000 as compared with immediate credit demands, as he points out, of $100 million. It is not contributing to the control of inflation when you control borrowing in a field such as that, because the granting of the credit would result in the production of more goods and an increase in the level of prosperity, and would therefore be of tremendous assistance all the way around.

Other phases of the maritime economy come to mind. Much has been said about the dominion-provincial relations payments, grants in aid, stabilization payments, equalization payments, and so on. It is true that the economy of the maritimes and the revenues of the provincial governments have benefited from these payments and, of course, it is right that they should. But when you have a system, under which the province of Nova Scotia does not receive sufficient with which, according to the provincial treasurer, to finance the ordinary fiscal needs of that province, and yet another province receives $1,500,000 more under the same fiscal arrangements than does the province of Nova Scotia and with that is able to pay out cash dividends of $12 million a year to its inhabitants, it is all very silly, to say the least, to talk about these being equalization payments or stabilization payments.

Then you have the province of Prince Edward Island, as was announced this morning by the Minister of Finance, getting amortization on over-payments. Instead of foreclosing the mortgage now the Minister of Finance renewed the note and is going to permit the province of Prince Edward Island to pay it off during the next five years, he hopes. We talk about grants in aid and stabilization payments. These payments have not been designed to achieve that purpose in so far as the fiscal demands of the maritime provinces are concerned, and they should be revised so that those provinces can receive a greater proportion of the national revenue than has been the case heretofore. With a budget surplus of $300 million, $400 million, $500 million, call it what you will, depending on where the minister buried it-

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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:

I wish I could call it what I would like to, but I dare not.

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George Clyde Nowlan

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nowlan:

The minister has succeeded in calling it various amounts, always on a very small scale; some of us have made it slightly larger. Whatever the surplus was, a province such as Nova Scotia needs $6 million or $7 million more not according to the Conservative government, but according to the Liberal premier who was there before, to bring it up to the level of the government needs across the country, and we are denied it. As I said, some other province gets more than a million and a half more.

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LIB
PC
LIB

Edward Turney Applewhaite (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Deputy Chairman:

Yes. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member but I am obliged to advise him that his time has expired.

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SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. Hansell:

Mr. Chairman, before this session prorogues and this parliament dissolves I would like to put on the record a few comments in respect to the very serious situation which exists in the coal mining industry of Canada and especially the coal mining industry of the Crowsnest pass which is in my constituency. I am happy to follow the hon. member for Digby-Annapolis-Kings because he has referred to the serious situation in respect to the coal mining industry of his province of Nova Scotia.

I usually speak on this subject every year and sometimes on more than one occasion during each session, but because this is a short session and because the estimates of some departments will not be brought before us I think we must take this opportunity of expressing ourselves in respect to this serious situation.

When I first came to parliament some years ago I tried to make a study of the Canadian coal mining industry realizing that a large portion of my constituency was affected. Ever since that time from this corner of the house we have been urging that the government adopt some sort of truly national coal mining policy under which our coal mining industry would know exactly what its situation was for the future. We did look with some anticipation and hope for a satisfactory solution when the Carroll coal mining commission was set up to study this problem. That commission devoted a lot of work to studying the problem, travelled throughout the country, heard numerous submissions and presented an interesting report to parliament which

was laid on the table of the house together with a small minority report, but despite all the work done by the commission and the suggestions that were made absolutely nothing came about as the result of their study of the problem. It seems to me that over the past number of years this government has closed its eyes and ears to the needs of the coal mining industry of Canada.

The Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys comes from Alberta. He has travelled through the coal mining area of that part of the country and has registered by word of mouth some hope for the industry but these hopes have been seriously blasted in the past little while because the coal mining industry in this country today is in a worse condition than it has ever been in its entire history, and that in a day when Canada is going through a period of terrific expansion.

I think we have to ask one pertinent question which cannot possibly escape the government's notice. Does Canada need her coal mining industry or does she not? Now the answer must be yes or no and I believe the government should come clean in answering that question. They should not leave the coal mining unions comprising thousands of men throughout Canada, quite a large proportion of them in the Crowsnest pass, as well as the industry itself with the millions of dollars invested in it, facing a question mark concerning its future. I know that those involved in the industry have been encouraged from time to time and have been led to hope that something will turn up. It is no use leading them along with a false hope if the government has no idea as to what they are going to do with this industry and as to whether or not it is necessary in Canada.

If the government's answer is, "Yes, we need the coal mining industry of Canada," then the government has to come to its assistance in a more forceful way than they have in the past and do something about it in order to keep it in existence because it is a dying industry and is struggling now, as it were, with its last breath. I believe the government of this day has to be bold in its approach to the problem. I would go so far as to recommend that there should be an embargo on the importation of coal. Perhaps a less bold approach would be to put a tariff much higher than it is today on the importation of coal in order that the Canadian coal mining industry can sell a reasonable amount of coal, keep its head above water and continue to employ a reasonable number of men in the industry. If the government wants the industry to continue then

something will have to be done and the only group that can do anything by way of assistance in the present circumstances is the government.

I say the government should pass corrective legislation. I will even be bold enough to say that not a ton of coal should come into Canada while we have an abundance of it. If the government does not agree that the industry is needed in Canada then let them say so. In this case, of course, they must lend some encouragement to the development of other industries in these particular areas or else allow those areas to decline and then we will have a number of ghost towns and the people will move away. I do not like to think that is necessary or that it will happen but as sure as night follows day that is going to happen unless the government comes to the aid of the industry with boldness.

In my particular area we have quite a number of good-sized communities which for many years have been dependent upon the coal mining industry. When I was motoring through there last autumn I picked up a man, a stranger to me, who was walking up a hill, I thought rather briskly. I invited him to ride with me in my car and we chatted. I said, "It is hard work walking uphill, isn't it?" and he replied that it was. He told me his name and said he was 80 years of age. I said, "My goodness, you surely hold your age well; you don't look a day over 70." He told me that he came to the Crows-nest pass 50 years ago and became attached to a very small mine and that he had been there ever since. He said, "I suppose I will die here but I haven't any work to do now." This was a man who had spent the greater part of his life in that area and he was now 80 years of age. A few minutes later I was in a club where I met another man who told me he was over 80 and he had come to that area many years ago, too. I merely refer to these incidents to illustrate that the coal mining industry has been operating there for many years and it has been an extensive industry.

In the town of Coleman there are about 2,000 people or perhaps more and not far from Coleman, a distance of perhaps three or four miles, there is another town called Blairmore, about which most people in Canada have heard, which has a population of approximately 3,000 people. Then there is a town of Frank, which is well known because of the historical significance of the Frank slide; this is not a large community but it has a population of 200 or 300 people. Not far from that is the community of Bellevue with about 1,000 or 1,500 people and

Interim Supply

just across the way and up the hill a little further is the town of Hillcrest. Then there are other similar communities such as Maple Leaf, Burmis and others of that kind. Now there are all those towns packed in a distance of about ten miles and this is the hub of the coal mining industry of southern Alberta. I do not disregard the coal mining industry in Lethbridge although I am talking particularly about my own constituency; I realize that the same thing is true of the coal mining industry of Lethbridge. Now those towns are fast becoming ghost towns and nothing is being done. The people should know and the government should tell them-we either need the industry or we do not.

I know that some encouragement has been given to the thought that perhaps some day this coal will be needed, perhaps for the purpose of generating power. That is all right but one cannot wait until tomorrow to eat; one has to eat today for one may not be here tomorrow. It is perfectly all right to extend hope over the years, but the coal mining industry is almost dead now. Are we going to keep it in existence or are we not? This is the question the government will have to answer and as far as I am concerned the only solution I can see at the present time is to put an embargo on the importation of coal.

While I am dealing with this matter of coal mining there is just one other matter I would like to raise. I do not wish to delay the house, but there are some difficulties with respect to unemployment insurance arising because of some arrangement with regard to shifts. These people are only working about one day a week but because that day comes at a certain time each week there is some difficulty in the schedules of payment and there are claims that one or two days of benefits are lost thereby. I do not wish to be misunderstood in this respect; the people I refer to are satisfied with the administration of the unemployment insurance; it just seems to be a technicality in the regulations and we cannot expect the officials of the government to bypass or to disregard regulations.

A few weeks ago some outstanding coal mine union officials were in Ottawa for the purpose of an interview with the Minister of Labour. It just so happened that the Minister of Labour was not in Ottawa that day and so the officials spoke to his parliamentary assistant and another official from his department. They explained the difficulties and they were promised that the points they raised would be investigated. I have not heard the result but I am now putting on the record my request to the Minister of

Interim Supply

Labour to look into this matter and to check with his officials to see if the situation cannot be remedied.

I would mention that Mr. Lote an official of the unemployment insurance office in Blairmore is doing a good job; he is not only interested in unemployment insurance but he is certainly interested in trying to get employment for those who cannot find it in their present lines of work. He has been a good administrator over the years and I have never heard any complaints in respect to the operation of that office. Therefore what I am saying is not in respect to the administration of that office as much as the technicalities of the regulations governing the particular situation existing there.

There is just one further point I would like to bring to the attention of the Minister of Finance. Although this is a comparatively small matter it may have an effect on a good many people throughout Canada. I have had a communication from a source with respect to the depreciation permitted for income tax purpose on garage mechanics' tools. Tools are very expensive and year in and year out they have to replenish the stock of tools which wear out. I am told in some instances this amounts to nearly $1,000 a year, but there is no depreciation allowed in this respect although depreciation is allowed on tools for carpenter contractors. If this is the case in the building trade then it seems unfair to me if the same consideration is not given to mechanics, particularly those working in garages since the communications I received affected those individuals. If the minister replies to some of the speeches this afternoon on the interim supply motion I wonder if he would mind telling us whether or not these regulations can be changed to do away with this unfairness, so that all workers may be treated alike. I particularly want to stress that mechanics in garages have to buy a lot of tools and therefore they should be allowed depreciation therefor.

I do not think I have any more to say. My remarks have been intended just to clean up a few loose ends. I will say that we have appreciated being here over the years. I would like to say a word of appreciation to the ministers, whom I have found to be very kind in taking up individual cases with regard to which I have approached them. They may not all be back here again, and I want them to accept my thinks.

I will be back here looking at the ministerial benches, and I hope members of the government will show me the same consideration in the future as they have in the past. I do not wish them any bad luck, but politics

being as they are, we hope that some of them do not come back; and that some day in the not too distant future we ourselves may be on that side of the house. If we get there I am quite certain we will attend to their individual problems in the same gentlemanly and interested fashion as they have attended to ours.

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PC

William Earl Rowe

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Rowe:

Mr. Chairman, as this session draws to a close one cannot fail to observe the lack of interest there seems to be in the House of Commons.

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LIB

Joseph-Alphonse-Anaclet Habel

Liberal

Mr. Habel:

I saw a man sleeping there behind the curtain about a minute ago.

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PC

William Earl Rowe

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Rowe:

The hon. member says he saw a man sleeping. By the remarks he makes I often wonder if he has been awake at any time during the whole session.

Seriously it appears to me that often when a government has been in power for a long time it grows careless, smug, complacent and self-satisfied. I do not like to embarrass any hon. members who are packing their club-bags and their books and trying to take back home with them anything that is not nailed down in their offices, but it does appear to me that sometimes when a government has been in power for so long it seems to forget the most important part of its representation, that is, the people.

I have been here for some years, but the longer this government stays in power the more empty seats one sees on the government side.

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?

An hon. Member:

Look at your own side.

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PC

William Earl Rowe

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Rowe:

Well, look at it. A few minutes ago there were more Conservatives in the House of Commons than there were Liberals. You talk about having 150. There were only 22 when I counted a few minutes ago.

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April 11, 1957