July 22, 1946 (20th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative


-and in all charity to my hon. friend the Minister of Veterans Affairs one can only say that undoubtedly the minister's fidelity to reality was unable to withstand the torrent of his eloquence.
The over-all picture is not the only discouraging aspect of the report made to the house this afternoon by the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply. I do not profess to be able after his long review-a two-hour review-of housing conditions in Canada and government policy in relation thereto, to be able to make an analysis of it on the spot, but I comment on the fact, in relation to what I said earlier, that it is a sad situation when the first attempt to release that information is made now, after damming it up for four months. It would have been better to release the information in this long statement earlier, instead of attempting to hold it back until this two-hour presentation to-day.
The house will be disappointed, I believe, to find that while the minister speaks of the government's intention to encourage imports, he has not a word to say about trying to retain in Canada some of the building materials that are at present being exported. Not a word. We have been drumming on this subject in the
Housing Act

house ever since the present House of Commons assembled in September last, and we have yet to hear the first word of encouragement on the question of retaining in Canada, for the use of Canadians constructing needed homes in the country, the building materials that are produced here.
But that is not all. I submit that we did not hear from the minister a presentation of any adequate policy for integrating the plans of the government now, whatever they may be, for construction to meet emergency needs with any proper long-range approach to the housing requirements of the country over a period of time.
It would be only a repetition of things I have said before to go into that situation at length; but it would be nothing but folly, nothing but a prodigal waste of public funds, if we did not have a far-sighted attempt on the part of the government to integrate our present efforts to meet the emergency aspects of the housing need with a proper long-range approach to the housing problems of the people. That means taking full account of the
325,000 sub-standard housing units in Canada which we were told by the Curtis commission two years ago existed and which unquestionably have increased in number since. I say, we have not heard anything in the way of a proper integration of effort or of a long-range approach to the question.
There is nothing but disappointment also for those people in Canada who have been looking for some provision of houses to rent. The minister said that the great bulk of construction in Canada carried on during the past year and at the present time has been the construction of housing for sale, whereas the present need in the country is the construction of houses for rent. What encouragement does he give to people who are looking for houses and who cannot afford to buy houses at present prices? There was not a word of encouragement from the minister, only discouragement.
Consider what the minister said in regard to Housing Enterprises Limited. The objective set for Housing Enterprises Limited at the beginning of the year was 6,000 units. That is what the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply said in an address he gave to the Canadian club of Toronto on April 15, 1946. He said:
A new agency, Housing Enterprises Limited, sponsored by Canada's insurance companies, is now entering the field of low-rental housing, with a programme for 1946 of 6,000 units. This project will be most helpful towards meeting housing requirements in a field that has recently not been attractive to private investment.

He tells us to-day that Housing Enterprises Limited has reduced its objective to 3,400. It has slashed its programme by nearly one-half. We are not half way through the construction season of 1946, and already Housing Enterprises Limited has reduced its housing construction programme to the extent of nearly one-half. Not only is that a disheartening picture for those who are in need of houses t-o contemplate, but it is an admission of failure on the part of the government and in particular of the administration given by the Department of Reconstruction and Supply.
What is the national objective for the current fiscal year? The objective, we are told by the minister, is 50,000 to 60.000 housing units; toward the end of his remarks he said it was 60,000 housing units for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1947. He says that the number of units built in the first twelve months after V-E day, that is, ending May last, was 46,900, and the best that the government can ask the people of Canada to hope for is an improvement to the extent of 10.000 at the most, in the year ending March 31, 1947.
If that is the best the government has to offer the Canadian people, not only is it not good enough, but it is a confession of its own incompetence to cope with the problem. The sights of the government must be raised, because 60,000 housing units by March 31, 1947, will leave the situation much worse than it is now, and we shall have to face a deplorable condition before the coming winter has run its course. In the statement given by the minister to-day, this summary of steward* ship, as he has described it, we have heard a confession of failure on the part of the government.

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