Mr. J. O. PROBE (Regina City):
In spite of the glowing account of my hon. friend opposite, who has in his dramatic manner told us that all is well within the confines
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of our country, I wish to record, at this stage of the debate on the address in reply to the speech from the throne, certain observations that I know my constituents of Regina look upon as dealing in paramount fashion with the well-being of our city itself and which, while carrying special weight there, are typical of urban problems right across the Dominion of Canada, my hon. friend to the contrary notwithstanding.
These topics, to which I wish to refer sketchily, are full employment and housing. As an overseas veteran recently discharged, and with some four months' activity in the Department of Veterans Affairs attempting to settle some of our comrades' problems, I feel I can speak for that large body of younger men and women who are now looking to us to reabsorb them happily and satisfactorily in the peace-time life of our country. Nor, while I am a new member of this house, am I so naive as to feel I am going to alter very greatly the crystallized ideologies or the prejudices of the more mature and expert members.
The present government has assumed office on the pledge of full employment coupled with a rising level of social security, all placed on a free-enterprise platform. In a broadcast to our Saskatchewan citizens on the eve of election the Prime Minister of Canada (Mr. Mackenzie King) as well as the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner), as I remember, emphasized the fact that in the Liberal party were to be found business abilities which, by inference at least, were not to be found in the C.C.F. or in other parties asking for a mandate from the people, and which are so necessary in this imminent transition period from war to peace.
And so on June 11 the Canadian citizens gave the Liberal party its somewhat shaky and uncertain order to go ahead and finish the job of making Canada a place fit for heroes to live. The best planning efforts of the Liberal party in the transition period are, I think, in the matter of veterans affairs, with some rather important exceptions. I wish to congratulate the government on the gratuity principle, on the plan for continuance of interrupted vocational or university education of veterans, and on the idea at least embodied in the term "reestablishment credit".
One very great defect in the gratuity system implemented by the government is that with the changes from time to tiftie in the clothing grant for example, varying from as little as $35 to a high of $100, certain inequalities have been caused to veterans, depending upon the date of discharge. I feel that this
should be amended to bring every veteran, regardless of date of discharge, up to the maximum receivable, and I further suggest that this maximum of $100 is far too low at present prices for clothing to fulfil its purpose, that of decently outfitting a person as a civilian.
Then there is one special group, those who were called out under G.O. 139 and then discharged in the early years of the war. They have been entirely excluded from the application of the clothing benefit. They, too, have served and deserve as careful consideration as the veterans who by chance, were discharged more recently. The amount per month allotted to veterans attending university or taking vocational training, as pointed out by our leader this afternoon, is definitely inadequate for the purpose intended.
I wish to repeat his proposal of this afternoon in this regard. He stated at that time that the pay and allowances of the service veterans should be used as the basis for continuance of education benefits, with a minimum of $25 a week, instead of having the present scale of $60 monthly for a single veteran, with $20 additional for a wife, $12 for a child, and so on. The reestablishment credit, which had as its purpose, I presume, from its name, the reestablishment of the veteran in his civilian business, or other self-supporting capacity, does not make it possible for a man who wishes to go into private business to start off without great financial debts. If it is the government's desire to foster free enterprise so-called, it seems to me that returning veterans have been definitely discriminated against in the practice of the reestablishment credit benefits, which do not come even close to the cost of setting up in the simplest business.
Then the provision of $30 monthly pension for the dual service pensioner is another inadequacy if it is desired to keep together more than the body and soul of the veteran who has served in both wars. Why not provide this man with a pension adequate to maintain his self-respect and make him feel that his country did appreciate his sacrifices. Since election day, as indeed before, the rumblings in our part of the country, of this stormy, halting transition with unfulfilled and unfulfillable promises of the once mighty political party, legislating planlessly or with the limited plans of its planning bodies, were evident to Regina constituency. Rumours of impending lay-offs in our largest single employer, Regina Industries, were current as soon as Germany had surrendered. With an election in the offing the Minister of Reconstruction (Mr. Howe) assured the premier of
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Saskatchewan on May 14 last, that there would be no large scale lay-offs at this plant until October. But by June 18, a week after the election, a weekly schedule of discharge notices was reaching the employees, and today this plant, which in January, 1943, had a peak staff of fifteen hundred employees, has a skeleton crew turning out obsolete Bren gun tripods for the Chinese government.
I have been informed by Mr. Wyatt, president of the Regina Industries plant union, that the record of Regina Industries production is as creditable as that of any war plant in Canada. When our plant went into the production of six-pounders it was predicted by competent experts that Regina workers could not do the job, and yet they did it on a more favourable unit cost than even the Peterborough, Ontario, plant which had at that time some sort of record for efficiency. To all intents the efficiency of our Regina workmen has no place in the Canadian industrial economy following the reconversion period. For I have now been assured that the building which produced our quota of war materials will be henceforth used as a military ordnance repair depot, and the expensive government-owned equipment scrapped or shipped east for private factory replenishment in this area.
Some of the hon. members may recently have seen a replica of the Arromanches installation on exhibition at the Chateau Laurier or elsewhere. I saw the original when I landed on the Normandy beaches last summer, and marvelled at the ingenuity of the scientists and the engineers who had conceived the daring plan and put it into effect in that great invasion. If our Liberal friends are sincere in their desire to build a greater Canada I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that they invoke the assistance of men and women like those who built "Mulberry" in the business of rebuilding Canada. The magnitude of their task for the invasion of France did not appal them. The fact that it had never been done before was no deterrent, and as they gave no thought to the dollar costs in a war emergency I feel that we have people of their ilk who can and will build and plan as wisely in the peace-time production of Canada that we now desire to employ our workers' talents to their full.
To make Ottawa a memorial, as suggested in the speech from the throne, is a worthwhile undertaking; to make every community of Canada a living memorial to the wisdom of our statesmen is still more desirable. In the city of Regina as elsewhere, families of servicemen, as of others, are in immediate danger of being with no shelter of any kind against
our Saskatchewan blizzards this coming winter. One family that I know, with five children, and the father employed in a bakery at $120 a month, was evicted in June from a rented shelter, and last week this family were still living in a tent provided by the city for them at the time of their eviction. There are other cases like that in the city of Regina. Wartime Housing is rushing to completion at its best speed some two hundred houses of substandard construction. Our city council is putting up some sixty two-room pre-fabricated shacks with no plumbing or indoor water facilities. A hundred and thirty-five civilian families had no accommodation in Regina a few weeks ago; 141 service families were registered in the city as having no winter accommodation; 411 returned families had applications in for housing, and the stream of men returning from overseas is not lessening. In spite of every effort on the part of citizens' committees of our city the army and air force quarters in Regina could not be secured for temporary easement of this situation; yet to-day's press contains a statement to the effect that these buildings, or those of them which are on private land, are to be turned over to War Assets Corporation for sale, dismantlement and removal to private individuals. And this *with a western winter just around the corner!
Housing in all of Canada is a national emergency. We are well over half a million houses short of meeting Canada's present housing needs under any standard one wishes to set up. The obsolescence of buildings, coupled with a marriage rate for Canada in the past six years of over a hundred thousand yearly, creating need for dwellings in which to start their newly-wed careers, with returned men and women needing homes for the first time, with sensational building costs, wdth no government planning apparently to meet the emergency, with no stockpiles of suitable materials, with only insurance companies to look to for funds at high interest rates, we have the most glaring example of the inadequacy of capitalist enterprise to meet national needs.
May I say that according to the reconstruction report of this government, even in old Tory Britain in the twenty years before the war public bodies there, in a country committed to private enterprise, were building dwellings in the ratio of two to one compared with private investment companies. May I suggest to the government that it meet this problem as it claims to have met the problems of the war. I ask that the government take over as a national measure all problems connected with building. Finance the entire cost by an issue by the Bank of Canada, on a revolving fund basis, for, say, $500,000,000
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yearly to be used to provide housing materials and erect the houses, for the next five years. Lend this money directly to the families in need of homes on a sliding interest scale of, say, three per cent for five years, two per cent for five years and one per cent for the balance of the amortization period of twenty or twenty-five years. Waive the requirement for down payments, which is the biggest single obstacle to building at the present time; and use the interest that has been charged the owner as an unemployment insurance fund to meet the payments as they become due if and when the home owner finds himself out of work. Turn the productive activities of our craftsmen to the making of materials on a huge national emergency basis. Put a proper price ceiling on the materials created. Encourage architects and town planning engineers to lay out homes in congenial, livable communities. Build these on a modern basis for use and for enjoyment, and you will meet an immediate need; you will eliminate most of the juvenile and adult moral delinquency which has been on the increase for the last number of years, which is caused by the unspeakable conditions in which the vast majority of Canadians now live.
If the government were to do this, the Prime Minister would have a more permanent and worth-while memorial, in the well-being of all Canadians, than the beautification of Ottawa, splendid as that idea may come to be.
Topic: GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY