July 3, 1944 (19th Parliament, 5th Session)


Alexander Malcolm Nicholson

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


It was pretty clear that the so-called Progressive Conservative party is really as Tory as ever with the Meighens and the people of King and Bay streets, Toronto, controlling the policy of this newly named political party. When one considers the very large government appropriations in times like these; when one considers that this year the federal government will spend over four billion dollars in directing Canadian production, he must realize that if this country is not going to guarantee an expenditure of at least two and a half million dollars for the first two years after the war is over, then Canada will slide into the worst depression we have ever known in our history.
Some time ago one Progressive Conservative suggested that the synthetic rubber plant at Sarnia should be left to free enterprise. While there are several large companies interested ih the management of this plant, there was no private, enterprise prepared to expend $48,000,000 to experiment in producing a substitute for natural rubber. The people of this country collectively supplied that money. Now that it has been demonstrated that a product which compares favourably with natural rubber can be made in large quantities, a product that promises to be an important factor in Canadian economy when the war is over, we see what must be the policy of this government when the war is over.
Is the government to hand this industry over to free enterprise? Are we to have one synthetic rubber plant or are we to have five or ten? Are ten times $48,000,000 or ten times the amount of material and labour used in the construction of this plant to be expended in the building of unnecessary enterprises? I submit that unless the administration of this country is prepared after the war to continue the
spending of large sums of money, then Canada will not be able to provide full employment for those in the armed services and those now working in war industry.
I think the minister has overlooked the importance of popularizing some of the work done under his direction. While some years ago he boasted of his faith in free enterprise, he found that it was imperative to have control of foreign exchange, to set up the wartime prices and trade board, to have rationing and priorities. As I say, I think it is unfortunate that more publicity has not been given to the important functions carried on by these branches under the Minister of Finance and the part they have played in our national economy. Instead of allowing those who'have been cramped by these regulations to count the days until the war is over, until they will be free from these controls, until prices will rise without any restrictions, until the sky will be the limit in the making of profits, we should be giving the public the details of what has been done. The minister should endeavour to bring the public with him in supporting these controls, not only ib war time but after the war is over, because the danger of inflation will not disappear with the firing of the last gun and the signing of the peace treaty.
I wish to use most of my time to-night to discuss a subject which I think will be a very important one in the post-war period, a subject which unfortunately has not received the attention it should have received in parliament. Since the war started very few members have taken the time to discuss the place that housing plays in the life of Canada. I should like to congratulate the government-the members of this group do congratulate the administration from time to time-upon the excellent report on housing and community planning which was tabled on March 24 and which has recently been printed.
In January, 1943, the administration set up a sub-committee on housing and community planning as part of the advisory committee's work on reconstruction. Professor C. A. Curtis, professor of economics of Queen's university was chairman, and E. R. Arthur, professor of architecture, university of Toronto, was a member. Mr. J. S. Galbraith; Mr. F. W. Nicolls, director of housing, Department of Finance, Ottawa; Mr. J. M. Piggot of Wartime Housing Limited and a number of others were also members. Doctor Marsh acted as research adviser and Doctor Firestone also did valuable research work, as did Mr. Greenway of the dominion bureau of statistics. Never before in Canada have we had such a comprehensive study of housing legislation in the
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different provinces and communities. It contains some very useful suggestions and suggests a pattern of the things to come. I should like to remind the house that while Canada has had a great abundance of lumber, cement and other building materials, our housing achievements have been anything but spectacular.
Housing legislation in Great Britain dates back to 1851. The first legislation passed in that year was based on the findings in the Chadwick report. Apparently in those days in Great Britain it took some time to get things done. That report was tabled in 1838 and it took about thirteen years to get action, but by 1851 they had legislation on their statute books and had made a real start toward the clearing of their slums.
A start was made some years ago in the United States, and when I last discussed the question of housing I devoted a great deal of time to describing some of the housing projects I had seen in Boston and in the green belt in Maryland. I want to make it clear that they have not solved their housing problem in the United States. In all their large cities there are slum areas which are eyesores to the people who have to live in them. The cost of maintaining those slums is a very important factor in the taxation structures of the communities, but in Canada we have a very short history in the field of housing.
During the last war the government recognized that you could not have full production if men working in war factories had to travel many miles to and from work, or if three or more families had to live in crowded quarters. It was realized that an appropriation would have to be made to relieve the housing shortage. But following the war it was not until 1935 that the Dominion Housing Act was passed. The results of its first two years of operation were quite disappointing. By 1936 only 936 units were built, but the following year this number was doubled and some experience was acquired which convinced the people of the country that some improvement should be made in the act. Later, in 1938, the National Housing Act was passed. That act has made it possible for people in the higher income brackets to acquire a house at lower costs than previously prevailed. By advancing twenty per cent of the cost and only ten per cent for the lower price houses, people were able to acquire ownership of homes on monthly payments amortizing principal, interest, insurance and taxes which did not amount to much more than they would have had to pay for rent. But the National Housing Act has not relieved

the situation in some areas. It has not made any appeal to the people in the lower income brackets. There are very few lower paid workers who are ever in a position to advance-even the ten per cent necessary to get them started owning their own ho-mes.
Since the war started we have had Wartime Housing Limited, which has relieved the pressure in some of the larger industrial areas, but we cannot view that experiment as having solved anything. Many of the houses built under Wartime Housing were of a temporary nature. The undertaking was given that they would be demolished after the war, so-that they would not become slum areas, but experience has proven that temporary houses; are never demolished as long as less desirable houses are being occupied. With very few exceptions where these wartime houses have been built there is a shortage of permanent houses, and it is hardly conceivable that any administration will compel people to move out of these wartime houses into the public parks so that these hastily built houses may be demolished. They have not been built with a view to permanence, although the Minister of Munitions and Supply (Mr. Howe) indicated on occasions that basements for them would be constructed and some attempt made to have them become permanent houses.
When members consider the very large shifts in population that have taken place-since the war started they will appreciate the immediate problem of having quarters available for our heroes when the war is over. Manj' of these young men got married just before enlisting and going overseas. Their brides stayed on writh their families. It is not good enough to ask these young people to wait for four or five or six years after the husbands return before they will be able to get into quarters of their own.
In Halifax, for example, the number of employees in 1939 totalled something over
8,000, and in 1942 over 16,000, an increase of over 108 per cent. In Saint John the number of workers increased from 6,000 to
11,000 between 1939 and 1942, an increase of seventy-eight per cent; in Quebec, an increase of ninety-eight per cent; in Montreal, an increase of forty-nine per cent; and further increases w'ere: m Ottawa, forty-seven per cent; Toronto, fifty-six per cent; Hamilton, seventy-one per cent; London, twenty-nine per cent; Windsor, 121 per cent; Winnipeg, thirty per cent; Vancouver, eighty per cent, and Victoria, ninety-five per cent. The total

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increase in these twelve metropolitan areas was from 521,000 in 1939 to 826,000 in 1942, an increase of 305,000.
The instructions to the committee were issued in January, 1943. Here we are in the first week of July, 1944. We have this excellent report, but we have no machinery at Ottawa or in the provinces to start the real task of building houses when materials are -available after the war. I think the time is long past when the administration should have announced in detail its housing plans. While some criticism might be made of this report 1 want to urge the administration to implement it, making whatever changes in it they think desirable, but without further delay to announce its plans for housing to the house and have some of the suggestions contained in this report carried out.
It is imperative that the federal administration should make known its plans with respect to town planning. Since the start of the war there has been a very large movement of population to cities like Hamilton, Windsor, Halifax, and the people of these cities naturally wonder whether this influx of people is to be permanent or whether the people will be returning to the prairies or some other part of Canada. It is pointed out in this report that at the time of confederation Canada did not have any large metropolitan areas. Winnipeg, one of the largest cities in the west to-day, at that time had a population of about 200; Moncton, now a busy city, had a population of only 500. There were three fairly large centres at that time: Montreal with a population of 130,000, Quebec with 59,000 and Toronto with 59,000. Ottawa at that time had a population of about 20,000. While Halifax has a very long history, it had then a relatively small population. At the time of confederation those wise fathers of confederation did not anticipate that Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal would in the course of seventy-five years grow to the very large centres they have become, and accordingly did not provide for dividing the responsibility between the dominion and the provinces in regard to town planning and housing. We have not yet determined whether an extensive housing programme should be the responsibility of the federal government, provincial governments or municipal governments. The question has been a convenient football to be kicked around from one administration to another on the ground that the British North America Act did not clearly define the responsibility.
Therefore I suggest that without further delay a conference of the nine provinces with the dominion should be called, with representatives also from the cities and rural municipal organizations across Canada, to discuss the one, single problem of housing with a view to reaching an agreement for the setting up of machinery after the war to relieve the housing situation, so that men now engaged in the construction industry building factories and war plants will be available to go into high gear building homes for our people.
One interesting section of this report deals with farm housing. Again I am grateful that at last a department of government has recognized that people on the farms in this country deserve better houses than they have hitherto had. I find, according to one of the bulletins issued by the bureau of census on farm dwellings in Canada, that in Saskatchewan where I live only one farm house out of 100 has running water; in Manitoba, two out of 100; Alberta, three; Prince Edward Island, nine; Nova Scotia, fourteen; New Brunswick, eighteen; Quebec, twenty-five; Ontario, fourteen; and British Columbia has the largest proportion, with thirty-four out of 100.
The situation with respect to electric lighting is similar. Saskatchewan has the worst record in that respect, w'ith only five homes out of 100 having electric lighting. British Columbia has the best record, with thirty-six out of 100. In Saskatchewan, where we have plenty of frost in the winter time and people should be able to store up some ice for summer use, owing to depressed conditions over many years only seven farms in every 100 have mechanical and ice refrigeration.
In connection with the value of farm dwellings, I find that in Saskatchewan the value of the average farm house is $950. New Brunswick, however, has the poorest record in this connection. It has produced very large quantities of lumber, and it should have been possible to acquire some paint there, but the average value of dwellings in that province is only $861. Values in the other provinces are: Prince Edward Island, $1,049; Nova Scotia, $953; Quebec, $1,019; Ontario, $1,421; Manitoba, $966; Alberta, $999; British Columbia, $1,173. Hon. members will be interested in knowing that in the cities in these different provinces people have much better houses. For example, in Halifax ninety-eight per cent of the houses have running water; in Quebec city, 100 per cent; in Regina, eighty-four per cent; Saskatoon, seventy-six per cent. As regards houses equipped with baths or showers, the proportion per hundred in Halifax is seventy-three; in Saint John, New Brunswick, sixty-three; in Regina, sixty-four; in Saskatoon, fifty-eight.
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The fact that the people on our farms in all parts of Canada have been obliged to sell their products at such low prices and have had to pay high prices for farm machinery and other manufactured goods has been largely responsible for the small amounts made available for housing.
In the November, 1943, issue of the Economic Annalist, published by the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner), there is an interesting report of a survey made in several parts of Saskatchewan; in the prairie area, where we have our good farm lands; in the park area, where we have good lands too but where a good deal more work was involved in clearing the land; and in the pioneer areas, where the heroes of the last war were obliged to eke out a living. In this survey the houses were classified as "poor", "fair" and "good". In deciding whether a house would go into these different categories, the enumerators noted poor foundations, faulty roofs, lack of paint, windows missing, et cetera. In the best area in Saskatchewan only 6-1 per cent of the houses were classified as good, seventy per cent as fair, and twenty-three per cent as poor. In the park area, 9-6 per cent were classified as good, fifty-eight per cent as fair, and thirty-one per cent as poor. In the pioneer area, only 3-7 per cent were good, thirty-nine per cent were fair and fifty-six per cent were poor. In one of these areas-the pioneer area -the average value of the poor houses is given as $207. I am amused, when members of the Progressive Conservative party outline ambitious programmes of housing, to recall the attempts which were made under the premiership of Viscount Bennett, when he was here, to re-house our farm people. We had in Canada in those days plenty of carpenters, lumber and paint. The only thing which seemed to be lacking was gold. Because we were short of money the farmers were not able to acquire lumber. The average value of the poor house in the pioneer area of Saskatchewan was, as I have said, 8207. The fair house was valued at $524.

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