Hon. C. D. HOWE (Minister of Reconstruction) :
Mr. Speaker, acting in my capacity as
Minister of Reconstruction, I desire to lay on the table of parliament a statement on government policy, having to do with employment and income, with special reference to the initial period of reconstruction.
I commend this document to you as deserving careful study. It is perhaps the most, important government document that has been presented to this parliament in recent months. The document covers all major aspects of policy relating to the government's declared objective of maintaining a high level of employment and income in Canada. It is not a simple document, intended for light reading; rather, it must be studied, analysed, and considered, in order that its full importance may be understood. Because it is comprehensive in coverage, and because it seeks to explain the inter-relation of the various policies which the government proposes to pursue, it will reward your close attention.
Since 1939 the policies of the government have been directed toward the objective of total victory. Industry and production have been mobilized and expanded to the limit in pursuit of that objective. The government has, however, at all times, kept in mind the task of capitalizing the expansion of the war years, and of directing our enlarged productive capacity towards the maintenance in peace time of a continued high level of productivity and employment. Effective action to that end cannot be taken until the demands of war have slackened, but plans for its attainment can be made now, and the framework of principles and of administrative machinery can be provided for putting our plans into effect.
Last year this parliament passed the Department of Reconstruction Act. Subsequently I was appointed Minister of Reconstruction and set about the establishment of the new department. Under the statute which you approved, my responsibilities have been clearly defined. Primarily they centre around coordination of the actions of other departments and agencies of government to the end of assuring a rapid and smooth transition from war economy to peacetime economy; the formulation of plans for industrial development and reconversion;
public works; housing; research; and the development of our natural resources. It is the duty of the department to find ways and means for carrying out these plans.
Tire organization of the Department of Reconstruction was undertaken at a time when the war in Europe was assuming new dimensions, and when allied attacks in the Pacific were extending the tentacles that will in due course, close upon Japan. Our war production during recent months has been at or near its peak, and the demands upon war industry and upon labour in Canada, have been greater than in any previous period. These demands will continue at peak levels until the defeat of Germany has been proclaimed. Until that day comes, we would be doing less than our share, should we embark upon extensive efforts of reconstruction and reconversion.
However, the primary emphasis on victory has not prevented careful planning for the period of reconstruction and reconversion and the establishment of governmental machinery for implementing these plans. Legislation introduced by the government during the last session of parliament has given some indication of the pattern of our post-war economy. The establishment of a Department of Veterans' Affairs and the measures placed in the hands of that department to assist in the rehabilitation of veterans; the establishment of a Department of National Health and Welfare and the provision for family allowances; the Agricultural Prices Support Act and the Fisheries Prices Support Act; the National Housing Act; the Export Credits Insurance Act and the establishment of an industrial development bank have all indicated the path which the government will follow. The Department of Munitions and Supply, while heavily occupied with our industrial war effort, has been clearing the way for prompt action on renegotiation of contracts, termination of contracts and the clearing of war plants so that rapid reconversion to peace time uses can be made possible.
The task of the Department of Rencon-struction will differ widely from that of the Department of Munitions and Supply. The latter was called on to mobilize and expand production in Canada for a single purpose, the winning of the war, with the government its largest single purchaser. Reconstruction and reconversion involve the rediversification of our industrial economy and return to a situation in which the government is no longer an important purchaser. In many ways the task of reconstruction is the more complicated and therefore the work must be shared by all persons and agencies, public and private. Because of the breadth and variety of the 32283-52
problem, organization for reconstruction must cover a wide and comprehensive field. The new department is now organized and ready for action. Perhaps I can at this time give a very brief outline of the organization that is now functioning in a preliminary way.
One branch of the department is concerned with industrial reconversion and is meeting with considerable success in establishing industries new to Canada in the limited manufacturing space that is released from war work. While industry itself must take the initiative in converting war plants to peace time uses, our industrial reconversion branch will facilitate, stimulate and assist in every way.
A small committee within the department is dealing with applications for double depreciation as provided in the 1944 budget. These provisions are designed to stimulate new capital expenditures and further industrial expansion and reconversion. Capital expenditures in amount of $50,000,000 have already been recommended for double depreciation.
The coordinator of controls will maintain a close contact with all war time control agencies. It will be his task to work out modifications and removal of controls in a manner which will facilitate reconstruction and benefit our economy during the reconstruction period.
A vast amount of war surplus is being disposed of through agencies under the Minister of Reconstruction. Crown-owned plants and equipment will be returned to civilian production when no longer required for war and will be sold or leased to private industry promising substantial new post war employment. In considering the disposal of these plants probable stability of employment is regarded as more important than a high monetary recovery. Special attention is being given to providing rental premises for small businesses. Surplus materials are being disposed of through war assets corporation in a manner designed to benefit our economy as a whole and to avoid speculation and a waste of any usable goods.
Another branch of the department will stimulate industrial research and will render service to industry by placing at its disposal the most modern industrial techniques. It is hoped to duplicate in peace time industry the splendid services that research has rendered to war production. This work will be carried out in close cooperation with the national research council. The purpose will be to enable industry in Canada to make use of advanced scientific information and devices.
A coordinator of public projects will stimulate the planning of public works and map out the timing and nature of government expenditures on public works projects. The purpose will be to have in hand at all times a shelf of public projects already planned and available when needed to stimulate employment in any given area.
A coordinator of natural resources will stimulate planning of activities designed for the conservation and development of our natural resources. Special attention will be given to the development of our northwest territories, the management of which is a federal government responsibility. Special attention will also be paid to restoring the depletion caused by war to natural resources such as forests, mines and fisheries.
Civil aviation is a special responsibility of the Minister of Reconstruction. Through the director general of air development, the air transport board, the air services branch of the Department of Transport, and Trans-Canada Air Lines, the rapid development of commercial aviation within Canada and across the oceans will be advanced as rapidly as suitable equipment can be made available.
Export trade has been one of the greatest single factors in Canadian economy and must be expanded as a feature of our post-war economy. A foreign trade officer has been appointed to the Department of Reconstruction to cooperate with the Department of Trade and Commerce in formulating plans for a vigorous external commercial policy and to coordinate the work of that Department with other government agencies.
In order to keep the department in close touch with every part of Canada, local regional councils have been appointed, one in each province of Canada, and two in the large industrial provinces of Ontario and Quebec. These committees will have a permanent executive staff. The duty of the committees will be to k*ep the department informed of employment conditions in their respective areas, to recommend public projects suitable for their area, and to keep citizens within their area informed about the work of the department. These committees will be representative of the various economic groups within the area, and will include representatives of 'abour.
The work of the department will be of direct concern to labour as well as to industry and production, and the department will seek the full cooperation and assistance of labour in formulating and implementing of its reconstruction policies. In order to establish a
close contact- with labour, our organization in* dudes a labour adviser, who will work in close collaboration with the Department of Labour.
The need for immediate and extensive reconstruction measures has not yet arisen, but the machinery is ready, and action will be prompt whenever we enter into the period of transition following the defeat of Germany. However, the machinery cannot operate without a comprehensive policy to guide it in its working, and set the targets for it. Here also the pattern has been set, the principles have been agreed upon, and the way cleared for action. The government document that I have tabled sets but the policy which will be applicable, particularly to the transition period following the defeat of Germany. The document is specific in the measures which are proposed for this transition period. It is not possible at this time to be equally specific regarding later measures, although the pattern for later measures is indicated in the statement of policy which I am tabling.
To attempt to summarize the document would be an invitation to hon. members to avoid giving study to the document itself. Therefore, I will not attempt such a summary. Once again let me urge you to read and study this important statement of government policy.
During more than five years of war Canada has continued to mobilize and expand its full productive capacity. On the industrial front, government, labour and management have been united together in the common objective of winning the war. On the production front, our farms, our forests, our mines and our fisheries have produced as never before. All our citizens have joined together with a common purpose, to back up our fighting men. The same united effort can win our post war objectives. Canada looks to the future with confidence.