Hon. J. P. Deschalelels (Minister of Public Works):
Mr. Chairman, I have the honour to submit to the house my estimates for the year 1964-65. I propose to proceed as follows: I shall make certain general observations on the estimates, as submitted, and speak briefly on the additional responsibilities entrusted to the Department of Public Works; I shall do it in English. I will then put forward general and personal ideas, after which I will invite my honourable colleagues to make comments thereon.
I do not intend at this stage to discuss any particular items listed in those estimates. I
Supply-Public Works shall make an important additional statement on the item concerning the national capital commission.
Mr. Chairman, the departmental estimates for 1964-65 total $201.9 million, and this represents an increase of $28.2 million or 16.2 per cent over the 1963-64 estimates. Of the increase, $15 million reflects new responsibilities being assumed by public works from the Department of National Defence. They are, first, the northwest highways system, $10 million, and second, Fort Churchill, $5 million. A further $10 million increase results from the extended application of the trans-Canada highway contribution. Incidentally, Mr. Chairman, since on Tuesday last I read a statement in the house on the trans-Canada highway program and policy, I do not intend to deal with this matter any further today unless hon. members would like to ask a few questions about it.
An amount of $2.7 million of the increase can be identified with two major construction items; building construction, which is up nearly $2 million, and harbours and rivers up nearly $1 million. The balance is a net increase arising from normal adjustments of other items.
Before proceeding further, Mr. Chairman, I should like to mention a certain change in the way in which the estimates are presented this year. Hon. members will no doubt have noticed that there has been a considerable simplification of the vote structure for this department. This rearrangement will be noticed throughout the estimates of all departments and reflects the wish of the government to make the estimates more comprehensive to parliament. Hon. members will recall that these changes were recommended by the public accounts committee in its third report to the house in December 1963.
I should now like to deal as briefly as possible with some of the features of the new year's estimates. As indicated above, a significant change has occurred in the transfer of the northwest highways system and the administration of Fort Churchill to this department. The responsibility for the highways system is one which I particularly welcome because of the importance of its communication facilities to Canada. The staff of public works is now in the area and it is the government's intention to continue the high standard of maintenance which has been achieved by the Department of National Defence. At this stage, however, our main concern is to achieve in the most orderly way possible this transfer of responsibility from
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Supply-Public Works the Department of National Defence. I know there is considerable interest in the longterm government plans for this highway, the length of which is approximately 1,200 miles, representing nearly the distance from Halifax to Toronto. As I said in the house, we are making a complete study of this situation to determine the need for and feasibility of the rebuilding and paving of this highway. We are concerned not only with the total cost but also with the time schedule within which this could be effectively achieved.
Concurrently with this, public works has made arrangements with the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, who have a special interest in the development of the territory, to undertake an economic appraisal of the benefits to Canada during the rebuilding, upgrading and paving program. When in possession of this information we will be able to explore with other governments any suggestions or proposals which they may wish to make concerning the improvement of this highway.
At this point, Mr. Chairman, X should like to say a word about the Haines road, which is about 160 miles in length of which 100 miles is in Canada and the balance in the state of Alaska. A great desire was expressed by the state of Alaska to keep this highway open on a year round basis, and as an experiment the Canadian government agreed to co-operate with the state of Alaska in keeping this road open during the past winter. This work is still in progress at this date and the department is now collecting and examining information and figures resulting from snowplowing operations throughout the winter, as well as the service provided. In light of this experience we will be in a position to decide whether it is advisable to give further consideration to this type of operation. It might be of interest to hon. members to know that up to 600 inches of snow can be expected in the area during winter.
The other major transfer of responsibility is the turnover of Fort Churchill to the Department of Public Works. Our main interest at this time is to protect the substantial federal investment in the area in view of maintaining the existing plant and utility and at the same time, consider with other civilian departments, alternative uses to which these facilities may best be put. We are also hoping for an improved co-ordination between Fort Churchill and Churchill townsite itself, which will eventually permit the province to carry out its constitutional responsibilities in
the area. I must say that in that respect we have made an official approach to the province.
Now, Mr. Chairman, I would like to deal with another important matter which was raised by several hon. members, particularly the hon. member for Nanaimo-Cowichan-The Islands, the hon. member for Peace River and the hon. member for Cariboo. It has to do with the Peace river power development. As the hon. member for Nanaimo-Cowichan-The Islands mentioned, British Columbia did not apply for a licence for a dam on the Peace river, as it argued that there was in fact no navigation on the river in the relevant area.
Hon. members will recall that months ago we had secured an opinion from the Department of Justice to make sure that at the point of dam construction the Peace river was navigable. The question has also been raised as to whether the legislation as it stands is binding on the crown in the right of a province. These are questions of legal interpretation as to the precise terms of the Navigable Waters Protection Act. There are a number of amendments to that act that would be desirable, and when they are brought forward action will be recommended to remove the uncertainty to which I have referred, and to make clear the extent of the application of the act. In the immediate case, as the project is now under construction, a licence cannot be applied for, under the terms of the act, until the work is completed.
In the interim the main concern is to ensure the protection of navigation, particularly downstream on the Peace river where it is of some present importance, and on the Slave river below the Peace river. This can be achieved by co-operation between the British Columbia hydro and power authority and the Department of Public Works.
On April 6, 1964, the deputy minister of the Department of Public Works wrote to the chairman of the British Columbia hydro and power authority indicating the department's concern for the preservation of navigation rights on the Peace river and the Mackenzie river system. In his letter he requested information on the proposed schedule of filling for the reservoir and the proposed method of operating the power project. I am pleased to advise the committee that the chairman of the British Columbia hydro and power authority has assured the department of the co-operation of the authority. The requested information is being prepared and will be forwarded as soon as it is complete.
It is intended to review this information with the British Columbia hydro and power authority to make sure there is no risk of prejudice to navigation and, as I said previously, amendments to the act would be desirable to remove the uncertainties; and we intend to introduce such amendments. In the meantime there exists complete co-operation with the British Columbia hydro and power authority to ensure security of navigation in the area. I hope this information will be found satisfactory by those hon. members most interested in the matter.
I would now like to deal with a very acute problem in which not only my department but also some of my colleagues, particularly those representing affected areas, are taking a great interest. It is the problem of water levels in the great lakes, and particularly in lake Huron. As hon. members know, the Department of Public Works has a responsibility to undertake dredging in navigation channels and public harbours. Our program, however, generally deals with what is internationally known as normal water levels. Unfortunately from time to time cyclical situations, which are different from the normal, occur, and at the present time the low levels in some areas have created serious problems for some industries requiring navigation facilities in certain harbours.
As was mentioned by my colleague, the Minister of Transport, thorough studies on the control of water levels are under way on an international basis, but it would be unrealistic to expect that early solutions can be achieved. We are therefore faced with a great demand to increase our dredging in areas affected by this problem. We are of course sympathetic to these requests, but I must point out that in many cases dredging itself is no practical solution, particularly where a wharf design is based on a normal water level. In some cases dredging to a greater depth would cause the collapse of a wharf facility, or the elevation of a wharf may be such that the greater depth of dredging would render it practically useless. Hence, in some cases dredging alone is not the complete solution to the problem. A practical solution therefore involves not only dredging but also complete replacement or modification of wharf facilities.
In other cases, dredging to a greater depth in the navigation channels simply could not be maintained, or else would be impractical in relation to existing elevations of lake beds and soil conditions. This is therefore a difficult and complicated problem, but so far as we can we will take all steps to deal with it.
Supply-Public Works We are now receiving our field information on harbours, with respect to locations where additional dredging may prove effective, and I propose to present these dredging projects to my colleagues not only as emergency requirements but as priority projects.
I would now like to deal with a last topic in English before reverting to certain special aspects of the operations of the department, which I intend to deal with in French. There has been a considerable interest in developments on parliament hill, no doubt stimulated by the work which has been done to provide facilities for parliament in the west block. My department has been working with the Speakers of both houses, and their committees, on a program for renovation within the centre block, which we all recognize is urgently needed, both from the point of view of the amount of accommodation provided for members of parliament as well as the standard of the facilities.
This program is one which must receive very careful and detailed study, particularly where renovations must be carried out consistent with the operation of parliament. There are many things to be done and to be considered, including a complete revamping of the electrical and mechanical services, which is badly needed if we are to have a modern air conditioning system, and adequate translation recording services.
Planning for these alterations is very complex, as all these things must be scheduled so as to permit us to continue our deliberations. For example, even the ceiling over our heads is in urgent need of repairs. There must be replacement of the leaded glass in the ten large windows on the east and west sides of this chamber where we intend to instal a coloured, opalescent glass to permit light to enter the chamber but eliminate the glare. This would permit the removal of the canvas awnings over these windows. The time needed for these alterations might be a matter of months.
Our planning extends to the east block, in which some of the alterations and provisions for accommodation are involved with the provision of a new headquarters building for external affairs, recently announced.
In some other aspects earlier solutions are possible, such as for the parking problem with regard to which plans are now in hand and being studied for the provision of sufficient space in order to leave the vista of parliament hill free of cars. It is our intention that the work will be put under contract this year.
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Supply-Public Works [Translation]
Now, Mr. Chairman, I should like to say a few words concerning our plans for the parliament building. I wish to say how important it is and I know this importance has not escaped anyone's notice.
What is the parliament building, if not the house of the people. So we should have all the facilities to greet the thousands of visitors coming from everywhere, from all provinces in Canada. No complaint should ever be heard that we have too many visitors. The public must know that here they are at home and we must make the necessary improvements on parliament hill and the surrounding grounds so that people will feel at home and so that when they leave they will be proud of their parliament. I suggest this is important, not only because of the problems we must deal with in this year 1964, but because in 1967 this national capital and this parliament hill will be stormed. We should make plans to get ready, so that the people who come here will take pride in what they have seen when they leave.
I now want to say a few words with regard to some aspects of the department's responsibilities. When I speak of the importance of the department, I mean the part it is playing and should play in this country's economy. Hon. members know that the Department of Public Works is one of the oldest in the government, but, as Canada develops, the concept of the department must evolve accordingly. For many years the part played by the Department of Public Works remained inconspicuous and static. People got into the habit of considering it as the contracting agency for public buildings, harbour and wharf projects.
I think that the first important development with regard to the part this department was playing about ten years ago, when perhaps the largest project ever conceived and carried out by the Canadian government was carried out by the Department of Public Works, and I am thinking here of the trans-Canada highway, the cost of which, when completed, will perhaps be twice that of the St. Lawrence seaway.
I must tell my hon. fellow members that one of my greatest wishes, as long as I am Minister of Public Works, is to contribute and to associate myself with those who now occupy the higher positions in that department to extend and increase the idea and, therefore, the importance of that department, and the role it has to play in this country's economy.
I think we should take resolute action to the effect of contributing, through major improvements in strategic sites, to the establishment of important industries, which would have repercussions, not only inside our boundaries, but also with regard to foreign trade. Well, that trend has already started; we even have several projects among those submitted to hon. members, which I associate with that new concept of our responsibilities, and I shall name one or two: the Canso project, for instance, in Nova Scotia, which means promoting jointly the establishment of a private business, that is, an ultra modern fishing industry, which will give jobs to several hundred workers.
A private company told us: If the government agrees to build a wharf, a breakwater or agrees to do some dredging according to the plans submitted, we will build there a plant that will give work to hundreds of people.
There is the Cap Noir project which also reflects a similar initiative.
A few days ago there was talk about the Gros Cacouna project indicative also of the new pattern according to which a study is made in a district in order to determine the measures that can be taken to spur economic activity.
There is no need to mention something everyone knows. The lower St. Lawrence region and the Gaspe peninsula are faced with serious problems due to a lack of easy, modern and adequate means of communication.
Concerning the Gros Cacouna project, I wish to say that it is the first stage of several major projects which will not only have a great impact on the economy of the whole area but will also contribute to bring the area out of the economic stagnation in which it has been for too long.
Mr. Chairman, our responsibilities include planning and economy. That is why, as has been suggested in certain circles, it might be desirable one day to change the name of the Department of Public Works for one which would reflect more specifically the various fields of activity in which it is engaged. The names of "planning and works department" or "building projects department" have been suggested.
I hope that my honourable colleagues will not show any reaction as to that.
My colleague, the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Sharp) will deal during the debate on his estimates, with this important,
this major subject matter-as a matter of fact, the second most important in Canada-[DOT] namely the tourist industry.
I will have to deal indirectly at this stage with tourism and to say a few words on a matter in which hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of people in Canada are most interested, namely the marina projects.