May 29, 1958

LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

It is also a fact that these financial difficulties of the municipalities have been greatly increased by the recession and by the burden of unemployment-

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PC

John Cameron Pallett

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Pallell:

Brought on by the Liberals.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

-which increased the

demands made on the municipalities.

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An hon. Member:

Brought about by the Liberal government.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Nonsense.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

That is to say the least a debatable interruption. It is also undeniable that the tax burden on real estate in municipalities is heavy and, on the other hand, that there are a great many municipal projects which should be proceeded with and which the municipalities desire to proceed with.

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An hon. Member:

You never proceeded with them.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

We did not take control of the municipalities when we were in power. While this is true, anything that is done in this respect by legislation should, of course, respect

The Address-Mr. Pearson

the rights and jurisdiction of the provinces of whom the municipalities-and this is sometimes forgotten-are the creatures.

One way of recognizing this problem, of facing it and of putting ourselves federally in a position to do something about it would have been to hold, as the government stated they would hold, a federal-provincial conference at which the municipalities' problems could have been discussed and at which their representatives could have been present as part of provincial delegations. That conference which was promised by the government has not been held and we have had no information that it is going to be held. It is true that we got an announcement from Edmonton the other day that there would be a federal-municipal conference. That announcement, I think, was greeted with some surprise as indicating perhaps a new agency of government activity under our federal system.

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CCF

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

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

Mr. Herridge:

A new vision.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

But the Prime Minister (Mr. Diefenbaker) explained away that announcement this morning by saying that this would merely be a meeting at which the federal government would receive representations from the mayors in accordance with a procedure which is very well established already in this country and, indeed, I suspect just following up the meeting which was held last February with the federation of mayors and municipalities.

As I have said, we on this side do recognize these municipal difficulties. Already outside the house and during the election campaign we have put forward some concrete proposals which we believe would help the municipalities and perhaps if the amendment carries this would be the kind of legislation that the government would be happy to introduce for that purpose. I know the government is always anxious to receive and act on the constructive proposals from this side of the house.

For one thing, we said that a Liberal government would establish a municipal loan fund in order to make available additional finances on a long term basis for major municipal improvements at reasonable rates of interest.

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An hon. Member:

When?

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

Well, perhaps it would have been done by now if the results of the election had been a little different. In any event, as it is not going to be possible for us to do it directly perhaps we can do it indirectly through my right hon. friend and his government. This would mean readier availability of funds which would make possible an immediate start on municipal projects, of

The Address-Mr. Pearson which there are a multitude in Canada now awaiting financing, and thus quickly provide jobs throughout the country. That is the kind of local public works program that would provide immediate jobs and it would also help to bring about a rapid expansion of urgently needed municipal services which in many cases have been long delayed because of lack of funds.

The exact scope and administrative set-up of this fund would have to be settled, of course, in consultation with representatives of the provinces and the municipalities. That could be done at the federal-provincial conference which we still hope the government will be calling one of these days to deal with these and related problems.

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An hon. Member:

Why didn't you call one?

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

Well, we have a very good answer to that question. The reason we have not called this conference is that we are on this side of the house at the present time.

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An hon. Member:

You had 22 years to do it.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

And during that 22 years, we called more than one provincial conference and during that 22 years this country went through the greatest period of national expansion in the history of Canada. That is something that is so often forgotten. My hon. friends opposite think that Canadian history began on June 10, 1957. I am quite ready to confess, Mr. Speaker, that a new chapter of Canadian history began on June 10, 1957 but we are not very confident that the things that will be written in that chapter will be as greatly to the advantage of our country as those that were written in the chapter which preceded.

There was something else we on this side of the house proposed during the election campaign, and this is another idea which is given without any requirement of acknowledgment by my hon. friends opposite. It has been pointed out already by this side in the short debate we had the other day on housing problems that there is an urgent need to speed up the redevelopment of blighted areas in our cities. In order to promote this redevelopment program we proposed if we were in a position of responsibility to do it to amend the existing legislation to provide for greater participation by the federal government in this activity. In particular, we proposed to increase federal participation in slum clearance schemes from 50 per cent to 75 per cent and to provide for federal sharing in the cost of water, sewer and street services in the area concerned. Also we proposed to ease the present restrictions on redevelopment so as to permit redevelopment for commercial and other purposes as well as for housing if that were considered advisable.

So when I say that we on this side support an amendment which advocates legislation to ease the burden on municipalities we at the same time make concrete proposals to that end.

In a few minutes, we will be voting on the address. As I have said, we will vote in favour of the address but I also want to remove any possibility of any misunderstanding as to the significance of that vote. The motion that we will vote on is merely this:

That the following address be presented to His Excellency the Governor General of Canada:

To His Excellency the Right Honourable Vincent Massey, Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour, Governor General and Commander-inChief of Canada.

May it please Your Excellency:

We, Her Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the House of Commons of Canada, in parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Excellency for the gracious speech which Your Excellency has addressed to both houses of parliament.

In other words, this is simply a word of thanks and appreciation to His Excellency for the speech addressed to both houses at the opening of parliament. It is nothing more and nothing less than that. It follows the traditional pattern in that regard and the vote, of course, will follow that traditional pattern. Perhaps hon. members, especially the new members, may be interested in learning that in 1946 there was an explanation by the prime minister of that day, Mr. Mackenzie King, as to the significance of this kind of vote at this time. In that explanation Mr. King quoted from a work by Todd on parliamentary government, and I read from page 354 of Hansard for March 28, 1946. He said:

It has now become a well-established rule, to regard the speech from the throne, and the address in reply thereto, as reciprocal acts of courtesy between the crown and the houses of parliament, and the address itself as the unanimous and respectful expression of the deference with which the house should leceive the first communication of the session from the sovereign, and as pledging the house to nothing, save the serious consideration of the matters referred to therein.

Again from that work, Mr. King quoted the following:

Accordingly, it has gradually become the practice to refrain from moving an amendment to the address in answer to the royal speech, "unless some great political objects were in view, and likely to be attained"; or, unless some assertion were made in the address to which the opposition found it impossible to assent.

We have moved our amendments, Mr. Speaker, and when those amendments are disposed of one way or the other, then there remains the vote on the address in accordance with the custom and convention laid down in the words I have just read. In the course of

his remarks in 1946, Mr. King was interrupted by the leader of the C.C.F. party, Mr. Cold-well, who said:

May I ask the Prime Minister a question? Does he then regard the passage of the address, without division, as an expression of confidence in the government?

Mr. Mackenzie King, who was prime minister and not leader of the opposition at that time, said:

Most certainly not.

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Major James William Coldwell

Mr. Coldwell:

That is the whole point.

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William Lyon Mackenzie King

Mr. Mackenzie King:

I wish to make that clear. Nor does the passage of the address without division commit any member to anything expressed in the address. An amendment affords an opportunity to take exception to what appears or does not appear in the speech from the throne and to the government's policy, but when amendments which have been proposed are rejected and there is nothing left but the simple expression of thanks to His Majesty or His Majesty's representative for having come to parliament and opened its proceedings, it certainly places the Commons in an anomalous position vis-a-vis the crown to refuse to thank His Majesty or His Majesty's representative for that act of courtesy.

Mr. Speaker, we in the loyal opposition do not wish to be placed in that anomalous and disloyal position, and for that reason, and for that reason only, we will support the address.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker (Prime Minister)

Progressive Conservative

Right Hon. J. G. Diefenbaker (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, I shall be returning in a moment or so to the observations of my hon. friend, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Pearson). Suffice it to say this: it is a matter of great interest to me to find Mr. Mackenzie King again quoted by the Liberal party as an authority because he has been left in abeyance for a number of years. In recent years we have found in this house that the opinions that he uttered from time to time on constitutional and other matters did not receive the same degree of obeisance as was accorded them this evening by the Leader of the Opposition.

I rise for the purpose of dealing, in particular, with the amendment moved by the C.C.F. party. I read that amendment:

We respectfully represent to Your Excellency that, in the opinion of this house, consideration should be given to the advisability of presenting legislation at this session to relieve the very heavy financial burden now carried by the municipalities of this country.

I say at this point that in so far as that amendment is concerned, whatever the nature of the amendment, it is a vote of nonconfidence in the government and as such I hope and expect that the house will not give it any other credence than that it is, in fact, a vote of non-confidence. In the last few days during the progress of this debate I found that an unusually good contribution had been made by members in all parts of the house. The new members

The Address-Mr. Diefenbaker of the house have made a contribution that presages a greater contribution for them in the years ahead.

There is little to answer at this time, however, in the arguments advanced by the official opposition, for no serious criticism has been made. Oh, there have been some matters dealt with. There have been rehashes of the speeches that were made in the recent election campaign. There has been little serious criticism. This can be well understood, for generally speaking the press of this country has indicated that no speech from the throne within memory has contained so many prospective subjects of worth-while legislation as the one that opened the present parliament. For that reason, criticism would naturally be uncertain, aimless, if not picayune. This has been characteristic of the criticism that we have heard in the last few days. Most of it has been a simple rehash of those things that were dealt with during the recent election campaign.

I shall do no more in answering them than to say that they were, in fact, of the essence of the opposition campaign during recent months. As I listened to my hon. friend, the Leader of the Opposition, enunciating the feeling of that opposition, that feeling for the municipalities of this country; that solicitude for their needs and requirements; that feeling that action should be taken in the matter of slum clearance and the like, I wondered what the government of which my hon. friend was a member did with respect to those things while it was in power. I have before me a book-and I assure you, Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to quote very much from it-which represents what I choose to call the promises and commitments made by the Leader of the Opposition during the campaign of February to March.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Worthy emulation.

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May 29, 1958