January 26, 1960

LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

Hear, Hear.

The Address-Mr. Bourget

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LIB

Maurice Bourget

Liberal

Mr. Bourget:

And the small industry was promised help, etc., etc. No reference is made to that now. There again, it was a vision and a fugitive one at that.

Well, Mr. Speaker, needless to say it is not in the few minutes at my disposal that I would have time to analyse each of those promises, to recall the astonishing statements made at the time mostly by the leaders of the party and, later on to show conclusively how lamentably the present government has failed in its task.

I shall therefore limit myself today to the discussion of two or three matters which, in my opinion, are of particular interest to the major part of the population.

May I first be allowed, Mr. Speaker, to discuss the promises made by the Conservatives to the effect that they would reduce taxes while balancing the budget.

Memories are still ringing with the charges hurled at the Liberal administration, in the year 1957 and also in 1958 and during the elections, to the effect that the Liberal government of the time was robbing every family of $120 a year-

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

That is fine-

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LIB

Maurice Bourget

Liberal

Mr. Bourget:

-by way of taxes. No words were strong enough at the time to criticize the Liberal party.

But what has happened since the Conservatives came into power?

In December 1957, and to a lesser extent in June 1958, the present government reduced taxes by $204 million. It can be seen today, however, that such a reduction was only temporary and was a short-lived relief for people so heavily taxed.

In the last budget, in April 1959, taxes were raised by $352 million, and later in the session, when amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Act were brought before the house, workers and employers realized they would have to contribute $80 million a year more than previously. If you add up both amounts, you get an impressive total of $432 million in direct tax increases.

Thus it is obvious that far from reducing taxes, the government has raised them to impressive heights.

Of course, one might think that the tax increases would have had the effect of helping the government balance its budget of expenditures and income, but such is not the case, far from it. Ever since the Conservative government has been in office, it has had

The Address-Mr. Bourget the dubious honour of piling up a $2 billion cash deficit and of squandering away an amount of $2,400 million that the Liberals had saved.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that we are now faced with a tight money situation, with such high interest rates.

And whose fault is it? The government's. It has to assume the responsibility and should not try, as it has been doing since it is in power, to pass the buck.

At this stage, Mr. Speaker, I want to read into the record a statement, or rather the opinion of a man who cannot be accused of being politically biased. I am thinking of a man who is an expert on monetary questions. This statement was made in Montreal on June 10, 1959 by Mr. J. Perry, of Toronto, who is director of the Canadian Tax Foundation, before the delegates of the Municipal Treasurers Associations of Canada and the United States. I am quoting this statement which was reproduced in Le Devoir of June 11, 1959:

The first fact which has to be kept in mind, the lecturer explained, is that, after a long period (as a matter of fact it is the first time in 10 years) the federal government, while launching its conversion loan, was putting out a considerable amount of bonds upon the market thus glutting the market in a way. The core of the problem, he added, resides in the fact that such financial operation had not been expected to have any disastrous effect for the "weaker" borrowers, i.e. the municipalities. Mr. Perry also stressed that in 1958, the federal government had its first peacetime deficit (of about $650 million), a fact which he considers as being at the base of present conditions in this country.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I think that we can rightly say that the government should assume the responsibility with regard to the serious fiscal and monetary position, which is prevailing in our country today. Neither is it surprising that the small borrower has some difficulty in obtaining funds, as the government has monopolized the greater part of the money supply.

Indeed, as the Leader of the Opposition, (Mr, Pearson), pointed out in the magnificent speech he delivered on January 18:

In the 15 months from March 31, 1958 to June 30, 1959 federal government issues took 58 per cent of all new money provided by the bond market.

Consequently, for the same reasons also municipalities and school boards now wishing to borrow have to pay prohibitive interest rates.

Mr. Speaker, I was curious enough to make a survey of the actual interest rates paid by municipalities and school boards on issues

sold during 1959. I do not want to take all the time allotted to me to give that list, but we can see that the actual interest rate, or return if I may say so, ranges between 6.5 and 7.89 per cent. Quite recently the city of Montreal floated a $13 million issue on which it has to pay 7.58 per cent.

Needless to say that such an increase in the cost of loans to municipalities and school boards will, in the long run, result in further taxes being paid by Canadian citizens.

Mr. Speaker, this brings me to another vital question which is seldom mentioned in the speech from the throne. I refer to unemployment. I shall not take the trouble to discuss whether there are exactly 500,000, 600,000 or 700,000 unemployed people in Canada. In any event, the Minister of Labour (Mr. Starr) stated in the house last Thursday, in reply to a question from the hon. member for Essex East (Mr. Martin), that on December 31, 1959, there were 667,715 current applicants and 17,976 fishermen who were unemployed. I think that in a country such as Canada, when hundreds of thousands of people are jobless, the important question is what should be done to put those people back to work.

I admit, Mr. Speaker, that this is no easy problem. However, I think it is outrageous that the government should be satisfied with a tiny decrease of 1 per cent in the number of people unemployed and in search of employment, in proportion to the total labour force. With a figure of 5.6 per cent for the first 11 months of 1959, this is still the second highest rate of unemployment ever reached since the thirties, and from the statistics quoted by the Minister of Labour, it seems we are due for an increase.

Another thing I cannot approve is the way the government has been handling the problem. Again this year, the government has offered to share the cost of winter works with municipalities, promising to pay 50 per cent of the cost of labour, which represents between 10 and 12 per cent of the total cost of the works.

It will be recalled that last year, that program was hardly a success, particularly in the province of Quebec, where it provided jobs for only a small number of people. Furthermore, I hardly believe that the government could boast of being overly generous, if I may use that phrase, because if we look up the annual report of the Department of Labour, we note on page 35, that

the estimated amount of the federal contribution to the cost of projects in direct salaries-and I am told it was less than that-was $10,698,000. Now, the contribution offered by the federal government this year is the same as last year's; it has not been increased. All that seems to have swelled up at present is newspaper publicity which is organized, actually, by the managers of local unemployment insurance offices.

Mr. Speaker, I just said that in the province of Quebec that program was far from being a success last year. Now, this year it does not seem to arouse much enthusiasm in the various municipalities. In this connection, perhaps it would be of interest to you to know some of the comments made in the newspapers where statements of mayors and aldermen of certain municipalities are quoted and which were reproduced from time to time in other newspapers.

For instance, in the newspaper La Presse of December 17, 1959, the mayor of Shaw-inigan is reported as saying:

That the winter works federal assistance plan was a monumental joke. He added that the unemployment problem was a national problem and that, so far it is up to-

And he was right because we heard it said so often from our hon. friends across the floor, when they were sitting on this side of the house.

-and so far, it is up to the federal government to solve it.

In the L'Action Catholique of December 16, 1959, an alderman of the city of Quebec is reported as saying:

That such a program would provide work to a very small number of unemployed.

And he added:

Last year, 100 unemployed got jobs for an average of two weeks each.

Actually it was an affront to the unemployed, said he.

According to another report published in a local paper, Le Soleil, the province of Quebec and Ottawa have not yet replied to requests for work projects submitted by municipal authorities. This is January 26; two months have passed already and the city of Quebec has not yet received a reply to the requests submitted in order to supply work to the unemployed.

Mr. Speaker, I could also quote from an article published in the issue of October 10, 1959, of Le Soleil under the title "No winter work projects". This is what it said:

Most municipalities in greater Quebec totalizing afteen have decided to shelve their winter work

The Address-Mr. Bourget projects on account of problems resulting from credit restrictions.

Mr. Speaker, I could quote many others.

I suppose however that the three or four quotations that I have just read make it abundantly clear that the government is taking no action whatsoever in spite of the loud and fallacious publicity it is giving to this matter.

Besides, one can readily understand why municipalities are not very interested in this program.

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PC

Georges-J. Valade

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Valade:

Mr. Speaker, will the hon. member allow me a question?

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LIB

Maurice Bourget

Liberal

Mr. Bourget:

Well, Mr. Speaker, I have no objection to answering questions, but if I do answer them, I should like that the time be taken into account, because I have another important matter to deal with. If the hon. member wishes to wait until I have finished my speech, I shall then gladly answer all the questions he will put to me.

The plight of the municipalities at the present time is that they have to borrow money at prohibitive interest rates, ranging, as I said earlier, from 7 to 8 per cent, while the federal government's contribution in this winter work program amounts to only 12 per cent. The municipalities readily realize and with good reason that the government wants them to pay the whole costs.

There would be a lot more to say on this question of winter work program, but we shall have the opportunity to discuss that matter again when the budget of the Department of Public Works comes before the house.

Well, on this point as on many others, we find that the present government does not dare face its responsibility. And the question is: when will it become aware of the facts?

Every day for the last two years and a half, the people of Canada have realized more and more that those who excel at making election promises are also those with the worst record for keeping their promises.

There is also another question, Mr. Speaker, on which I should like to draw the attention of the members of this house, a question which I think is of vital interest not only for the city and district of Quebec, but also for the province as a whole. I am thinking of winter navigation on the St. Lawrence up to Quebec.

The confusion that for a few months followed the statements on this matter by

The Address-Mr. Bourget the relevant authorities and the interpretation of these statements by well informed persons, has now disappeared but the issue is not settled.

No need to say that our people are terribly disappointed, particularly after receiving from authorized persons the assurance and even the certainty that the government was willing to help winter navigation from the Atlantic ocean to Quebec city.

May I be allowed to quote here some excerpts of a talk given by the hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Tasse) in Montreal on September 24, 1959. It was entitled: "Quebec, a winter port". I shall now quote from the statement made at that time by the hon. member for Quebec East:

In this case, what can be done to overcome the obstacles which during the winter months, prevail on the stretch between the Atlantic ocean and Quebec? First of all, we would recommend sufficiently powerful ships with re-enforced structure and hull. A good number of such ships are available at this time, and other ones are being built, so that some progress has been made in this respect. Yet, those ships also sometimes need the help of ice-breakers and general information on the position, nature and movement of the ice, as well as on prevailing weather conditions. Those services are under the Department of Transport of the federal government and it would be well to hear the point of view of the Minister of Transport (Mr. Hees), himself on that matter.

This is still the hon. member for Quebec East speaking.

On January 22, 1958, the Minister of Transport (Hon. George Hees), when speaking at the annual dinner of the Dominion Marine Association and of the Lake Carriers Association in Montebello (Quebec), reviewed the activities of his department. When he came to speak about winter navigation, he listed what was being done with regard to the building of ice-breakers, reconnaissance flights, navigation aids, etc. in the estuary and the gulf of St. Lawrence, and he ended by saying:

And I am still quoting, which means that these are the words of the hon. member for Quebec East:

(Text):

With this group of ships available it should be possible within the next few years to meet virtually all requirements on the St. Lawrence and gulf areas including such winter shipping as may wish to proceed into the various ports in the lower St. Lawrence even as far up as Quebec.

(Translation):

And the hon. member for Quebec East pursued as follows:

This is self explanatory. On June 11, 1959-

And I am still quoting the hon. member for Quebec East:

On June 11, 1959, when his department's estimates were being discussed, somebody inquired about the activity of ice-breakers in the lower St. Lawrence, and the minister answered: "One of our new icebreakers will be put to work all winter in that

area". Then, another question being asked, and I quote: "How many ice-breakers will be assigned to help winter navigation between Quebec and the lower St. Lawrence", the minister answered: "There was one this winter and we shall add another one next year, i.e. during the coming winter". These few quotations-

These are not my own words but those of the member for Quebec East:

These few quotations may well point out that the Minister of Transport is willing to help winter navigation from the Atlantic ocean to Quebec.

Let us now go back to the Department of Transport and see-

Once more these are the words of the hon. member for Quebec East;

-and see what action was taken to follow up the minister's statement. Reconnaissance flights had been made over the gulf for several years but, since 1959, this activity was extended as far as Quebec by means of planes based in that city. Moreover, the department instructed a number of people on the banks of the St. Lawrence to make observations on the ice position during the winter and report current conditions. All this information is either gathered in Quebec or at the information centre on ice conditions in Halifax, and then verbally transmitted by radio, or else collected in the form of ice cards and transmitted by means of a so-called "fac-simile" apparatus which allows transmission of those cards by radio. Those include forecasts and are put at the disposal of ships to help them follow their route. Navigation is also helped by the Bendix-Decca system which allows a ship having such apparatus to know at any time even at visibility zero, where she is, where she has gone and where she is heading. As regards ice-breakers, the program is even more significant, since this year the Department of Transport has put in operation a new ice-breaker, the Sir Humphrey Gilbert; it has launched another one in Montreal, the Wolfe: and it will launch another one at Lauzon, on October 31, which will be the largest ever built in Canada, and the third greatest m the world, with 15,000 H.P., which will bear the name Sir John A. Macdonald.

May I be allowed here to digress a little.

I should like to say that the contract for that ship, the third greatest ice-breaker in the world that is to say the contract for the Sir John A. Macdonald-was granted to the shipyards of Lauzon by the Liberal government of the time, since the contract was granted-

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PC

Jean-Jacques Martel

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Martel:

Could you give us the date on which the contract was granted?

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LIB

Maurice Bourget

Liberal

Mr. Bourget:

Certainly. The date on which the contract was granted is to be found in a press release of October 31, 1957, issued by the department of Transport, which states:

(Text):

The contract for the construction of the Sir John A. Macdonald was awarded in 1957 at a cost of $9.8 million.

(Translation):

In April 1957, our friends were not yet in power.

Well, I continue with my quotation from the hon. member for Quebec East:

We have just been informed, at last, that another ice-breaker, identical to this one, will be provided for in next year's estimates.

That considerable increase-continued the hon. member for Quebec East-is justified by the very particular conditions prevailing in Canada. In fact, our arctic areas are being developed intensively and are in need of ice-breakers in summer and fall for supplying their establishments. The needs of those areas are increasing very rapidly, since this year about 30,000 tons will have been transported there, while last year only one third of that was transported. When winter comes, those arctic areas become inaccessible, so that the ice-breakers are available for use elsewhere, but this time, in the St. Lawrence gulf and river.

And I close here the quotations taken from the talk given by the hon. member for Quebec East in Montreal.

Now, here are the answers given by the Minister of Transport (Mr. Hees) to the questions asked by the hon. member for Laurier (Mr. Chevrier) and myself, on Tuesday, January 19, 1960. This was my first question:

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LIB

Maurice Bourget

Liberal

Mr. Maurice Bourget (Levis) :

Mr. Speaker, I should like to direct a question to the Minister of Transport. Can the minister tell the house whether the ice-breakers stationed in Quebec city harbour and in the lower St. Lawrence are there to maintain ocean shipping in winter time up to Quebec city?

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PC

George Harris Hees (Minister of Transport)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. George H. Hees (Minister of Transport):

No, Mr. Speaker, we do not have sufficient icebreakers to perform that task. As the hon. member knows very well, the small icebreaker in Quebec harbour has three specific tasks: first, making sure that the ferry goes across from Levis to Quebec city and back; second, to make sure that ice does not accumulate under the Quebec bridge; and third, to see that much needed supplies are delivered to certain island communities that otherwise would not receive supplies. Other icebreakers are working farther down the river and in the maritime area and in the gulf. They are kept busy all the time, and our ice-breaker force is taxed to capacity at all times during the winter months.

And here was the question asked by the hon. member for Laurier (Mr. Chevrier):

May I ask a supplementary question of the minister, which I hope he will answer. Is it the minister's intention to assist ocean ships which desire to service the city of Quebec by means of the transportation of cargo?

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PC

George Harris Hees (Minister of Transport)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hees:

Mr. Speaker, we assist all ships

that we can up to the limit of our capacity, and our capacity at the present time has already been reached.

The Address-Mr. Bourget

Well, in closing my remarks I will add only this, as the hon. member for Quebec East said himself in his talk: "This is

self-explanatory".

One last point I should like to raise at this time, Mr. Speaker, is in connection with civil servant salary increases.

I had occasion, last fall, to attend a meeting organized by the federal civil servants association, and I was there in a position to realize that those employees submitted the reasons for their demands with both diginity and energy.

For a long time it has been recognized that the government, as an employer, ought to pay its employees fair and reasonable salaries, which must favourably compare with those paid by private enterprise for similar work.

I personally believe, as many others, that the government is to blame for its failure to publish the commission report, which would have allowed the population to know all the facts. I would therefore ask the government to resume its negotiations with civil service representatives in order to arrive at some agreement which would be fair to both parties. Civil servants should not be the only ones to "hold the line" in order to check inflation. In the past, those people have shown that they were reasonable; but at the same time, they rightly expect to be treated with fairness.

Mr. Speaker, may I, with the permission of the house, table a list of the loans contracted by some municipalities and school boards in 1959?

(Text):

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PC

Jacques Flynn (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Has the hon. member leave to have reproduced in Hansard the table to which he has just referred?

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?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

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LIB

Maurice Bourget

Liberal

Mr. Bourget:

Thank you very much.

(Editor's note: The table referred to above is as follows:)

The Address-Mr. Bourget

(Translation):

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LOANS TAKEN OUT IN 1959


Borrowers Eastman school board, Brome City City of Lac Megantic Baie d'Urfee school board Chateauguay school board City of Cap de la Madeleine Shipshaw school board Lachute school board St. Hyacinthe school board Ville St. Laurent, Montreal St. Lambert school board, Montreal Thetford-Mines school board Boucherville school board Ste. Genevieve school board City of St. Leonard de Port Maurice City of Duvernay City of Chicoutimi-North City of Dorval, Montreal City of Verdun City of Montreal


LIB
PC

Léon Balcer (Secretary of State of Canada; Solicitor General of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Balcer:

Mr. Speaker, would the hon. member for Levis allow me a question?

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LIB
PC

Léon Balcer (Secretary of State of Canada; Solicitor General of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Balcer:

Is the hon. member aware, with regard to winter navigation up to Quebec, that the former Liberal candidate in Quebec East, Mr. Maurice Lamontagne, regarded the matter as a pipe dream dating back to several generations, and something that cannot be done?

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January 26, 1960