You are right; I have learned. At that time, Mr. Speaker, I said that Place Frontenac was not an asset for the people of the Elochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood. Over the years, there were many problems and it was nevertheless the Minister of Urban Affairs who had to bear the burden.
Last May, the minister announced a special policy for Place Frontenac so that senior citizens could at last get housing according to their income. I was pleased with the decision at that time. Now, that is a few weeks ago, Place Frontenac became the property of the tenants of those three 15-floor high rises, that is a non-profit corporation, which should certainly enable them to pay reasonable rents with the new policy of the government. Of course, Mr. Speaker, our constituents talk about low-rental housing. Of course, to them, low rental housing means extremely low rents. Building costs being what they are today, the situation has changed considerably. Anyway, I read in La Presse this week that the minister said the shelter allowance will cost between $450 million and $1 billion a year.
It is obvious that the provincial government was supposed to go along. In fact, last year, I met the minister's assistant in Montreal. Mind you, he did not want to see me. But when I told him: If you do not, the press will know about it, I do not know if he was scared but he said: Yes, I shall meet you. I discussed with him and at some point he simply said that it was the policy of his department to establish a shelter allowance. Fine. But he added: It is not the government's policy. So you immediately see the image projected by this government which does not want to co-operate and leaves old people in ghettos, which does not want to help us help them and also leaves families in ghettos. Again last night, Mr. Speaker, when I arrived at my constituency office I had lots of people and it lasted until 11.30 p.m. There again 1 had housing problems, people coming to me for help. They go and see their alderman who says: Go and see your member of parliament, he is going to fix all that. I understand perhaps, Mr. Speaker, that Brother Andre was performing miracles but I am Brother Jack who just rings the morning bells.
Mr. Speaker, we met a few times with the Montreal mayors conference which is now in session. We talked about urban transport because that falls under urban affairs. Well, obviously, if we want to improve the economic situation in eastern Montreal-I think, of course, that I asked the question and the answer was extremely logical and I understood it as an intelligent man-we will have to follow the situation closely to determine sooner or later, as I put it to the Minister of Transport some time ago, whether it would be possible to continue the Mirabel line as far as the Angus shops. There is a big vacant lot where 8,000 housing units could be built. There is a project by Marathon, a subsidiary of Canadian Pacific, under which those units could be offered to nonprofit corporations and we could also have one of the biggest
shopping centres in Canada, and that shopping centre would operate on a co-operative basis.
Right now, according to the latest news, I am told they decided to make an industrial park out of the Angus shops and put up houses along the east-west expressway. So they are against it. I do not know if the whole world has turned topsy-turvy, but it is a fact, Mr. Speaker, that such a project with respect to the Angus plant would be very beneficial to building in the city of Montreal which is almost at a standstill. Jobs could be created in the building trades, and after the project is completed some 4,000 permanent new jobs could also be created, of which 3,000 at least do not require any special skill.
I think it is important, Mr. Speaker, to keep this in mind. Of course, this does not depend only on the federal government. I put this question before to the Minister of State for Urban Affairs (Mr. Ouellet). He agrees on this project. However, there is still the provincial government as well as the municipal government which controls zoning. Let us wait and see. Anyway, since we will meet with the Montreal executive council next Monday, I shall certainly raise the matter. So, I am referring to this in the House in the hope that the message will be relayed to the Quebec authorities, and as for Montreal, I will make sure to broach the subject next Monday. I usually make no bones about raising such matters.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would like to return to a point I mentioned rather briefly earlier. The rehabilitation or building of homes requires electricity, of course. Therefore I hope nobody will ever tell me some day that there is a shortage of electricity because I will start asking questions, namely whether there is still water running in the rivers. On the other hand, if we are successful, Mr. Speaker, we will have found a way of conserving energy. There is much talk about oil or other shortages. Well, if houses are electrically heated, we may then keep on using oil for other purposes as we do now and we will no longer have to worry about oil.
Mr. Speaker, people live in old houses that are not necessarily shacks. Everyone knows how much it costs to heat a home. Many families heat their homes with oil or natural gas besides electricity. Of course, this is costly! Obviously, in a constituency like the one I represent, when we consider that nearly half of the population is idle-and I hasten to add through no fault of theirs, Mr. Speaker-people have problems. In my area, we have suffered the consequences of the actions of some people, members of parliament like myself and my colleagues, who were there before us, especially in the Quebec government. We have seen nearly all the buildings on Notre-Dame Street being demolished, many businesses go bankrupt on Sainte-Catherine Street and many companies disappear. The poor guy who has lost his job and only has grade seven or eight is too old to go back to work after he has collected his unemployment insurance benefits and has to go on welfare. Imagine his problems when he finds himself in another tenement.
March 1, 1979
Mr. Speaker, I believe it is very important to be positive. Therefore I hope that if the opposition has certain amendments to suggest, they will do so now. This would be the time to do it while we are sitting in this House. We must not be content to criticize. For my part, I could criticize a lot of things if I wished, just like the opposition wants to do. I could criticize the minister and Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation. This is why I am here. But what is important is to suggest solutions. For my part, I have some to suggest and I hope that I will have the time to submit them before my time is up.
It is quite obvious that socially and economically, the amendments to this act concerning an increase in the number of non-profit organizations will be very useful. I hope that the city of Montreal and CMHC will "thaw out" as winter is almost over and we hope that the weather will be warm enough to "thaw them out". Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a few suggestions. It is rather strange, but it has always been like that in my riding. An end should come to that farce one of these days.
Mr. Speaker, when you look after your house, you tell yourself that you will make it more congenial, more comfortable. Of course, whatever happens is not to be blamed on the federal government but rather on the municipal government. They come by and raise their property taxes. I could even mention something that occurred recently in my riding where a co-operative was set up. Last summer, those who had repaired their houses, put up lovely flower boxes, had their rent increased. They are really discouraged and ready to give up.
I make this suggestion which I will repeat next Monday before the executive committee of the city of Montreal. I make it here before parliament as the federal government might participate in this project. I think that in such cases, the municipality should, when a taxpayer wants to effect improvements to his house, whether it is in Montreal or in any other municipality in this country, grant him a tax rebate to encourage him to keep his older house, and also to promote a good neighbourhood spirit.
Besides, municipalities should raise their tax rates for those who do not want to upgrade their houses for one reason: in Montreal East, the majority of shabby and dilapidated houses are owned by trusts, multimillionaires, who will have nothing to do with our working poor or senior citizens. In the meantime, their taxes are next to nothing. But the small home owner who wants to join a co-op, do something, help, get involved in the life of his community what do we do to him? We tax him. So, I feel this would first prevent speculation, and second, it would force those big corporations to do something, because we know they hate losing a buck. They would rather sell at a discount than lose money. So this could be suggested to local authorities, and the Canadian government could contribute.
To enlighten the opposition, work out the figures correctly. They are not that high. This means that if those people pay less property tax, I mean the people who improve their houses,
and if the others pay more, it will even up. The Canadian government could contribute, and even the provincial government if they wanted to. So in the end this would not be that much more expensive. It is an investment, no more, no less, and whole urban areas would be saved.
Any way this sounds quite sensible to me, and I hope the suggestion will work its way through. The opposition may also bring other suggestions.
Mr. Speaker, there is another point I would like to make: We have non-profit corporations or co-operative housing corporations. For quite some time people going to the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation have been given a huge pile of papers. There is a table there, the references to two months or two months and a half. A time frame is provided. You do that voluntarily, you realize that? This is voluntary. But you are given a schedule, and it takes six months before you can consider renovating a house. Think how many houses will be built at that rate! This is not in the act, it is in the regulations put out by CMHC officials. I set up another non-profit corporation in my constituency, Hochelaga. I went to the Central Housing and Mortgage Corporation and I said: We are asking for starter funds; not me personally, I only sponsor the project since, as a member of parliament I am obviously not entitled to subsidies. So I said to them: Gentlemen, we are given only $500 to start; we are given instructions, so much for this, for that and for that. I said: Gentlemen, you are way off the ball. This makes no sense whatsoever. All I ask is that you apply the National Housing Act. It is there as clear as can be.
This makes me laugh, Mr. Speaker, because all these experiences are worth relating. This makes me laugh because you submit plans which you have to be redone over and over again. And this is an expensive process. I remember the first nonprofit corporation I created in Hochelaga. A building contractor kindly offered to lend a hand. He had to redo the plans a great many times. Imagine what that would have cost us, if he had charged each time, besides the shortfall of $50,000 at 8 per cent interest per annum. It was no piece of cake, Mr. Speaker. But there is another suggestion I would like to make. I have already suggested this to CHMC. We know that non-profit corporations hire building contractors or someone to oversee the whole project, award sub-contracts, etc.; these people pocket 20 per cent of the profits. I think that we could grant by means of the National Housing Act and its regulations a certain amount of money which would go to a person who would be called the project co-ordinator and who would manage the repairs and later find a responsible person who could hire subcontractors, and it could well cost 10 per cent instead of 20 per cent. Immediately, at that very moment, costs would be reduced, because it is important, Mr. Speaker, to be cautious. You must keep in mind that even though I say those things in relation to the administration of the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act and its regulations I cannot entirely blame them, because they have to be careful and I will tell you why. I think that in this House I have a right to say certain things and it is my privilege to do it. I will
March 1, 1979
not mention any names. I will simply say that some people belonging to the organization of the Progressive Conservative party, who were part of my own organization at that time, did try to entice me into a gimmick involving $10,000 in pay-offs in connection with non-profit housing, and that I never accepted such offers. But it would seem that somebody got these $10,000. I even asked the RCMP to investigate but nothing could be done in that case. So I certainly hope that public interest will still be protected, but there should also be more flexibility and it should be possible, Mr. Speaker, to get housing to move faster because it is much too slow now. It is a never ending process.
What is happening now is that people working on a voluntary basis are discouraged by these procedures and stop working. The law is there to provide for everything needed, but appropriate formulas have to be found in co-operation with the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation to make housing procedures easier and faster. There is also an important point, probably one of the last, Mr. Speaker, about which I am very happy. It is obvious that the bill before the House is aimed at increasing the participation of the private sector, that is credit unions and banks, by allowing mortgages on non-profit housing.
Of course, through the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation the federal government will guarantee these loans up to 100 per cent. I intended to put a question to the minister, and I suppose that he expected it. I hope that with these guarantees the private sector will co-operate and will not have the nerve to turn down non-profit corporations. Certainly, it could say no to a corporation which is not serious, because the authorization of the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation would still be needed. There are obviously many people working for the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation. It is not necessarily because of that that the process takes so much time. It is because when you go there with a document, it has to go through the hands of about eight people. They must obviously have enough time to examine it. But it seems to me it is possible to speed things up.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I urge the parties of the opposition to support this bill. Naturally, the government is open to any amendment to the bill; that is why we are here, to find solutions to problems. But, above all else I hope we will think of the old, of those among us who are less fortunate, who are in need of housing.
If, at some point, we could considerably increase the number of non-profitable corporations, if every hon. member in this House could set up that type of committee, in his riding, specifically to increase the number of housing corporations or co-operatives, I feel we could help one another speed up the construction of houses. Indeed, when you live in a house where you are cold, where you have to pay twice as much as others for heating, especially this year when winter has been rather severe, life is not easy for people.
I trust that the first goal of hon. members in this House is, first and foremost, to put the interest of all Canadians ahead
of party or personal interests. That is the wish I express for the benefit of all hon. members trusting they will do the same.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: NATIONAL HOUSING ACT