Victoria, Mr. Speaker, is noted throughout Canada for the beauty of its environment. I suppose this is well known to all hon. members; if it is not, I extend to them an invitation to visit us at their earliest opportunity. We shall be glad to see them and I am sure they will receive the usual Victorian welcome.
I should like to mention one important difference between Victoria and other constituencies, namely, the sociological make-up of its people. Over 30 per cent of the eligible voters are old age pensioners. There were at last count 19,600 residents of the age of 65 or over. These people are in many cases entirely dependent upon the financial arrangements that our society makes for the care of its elderly.
Perhaps the next largest identifiable group in my constituency is that of active government employees. Many of the employees of the defence installations in Esquimalt live in the constituency of Victoria; this group includes both military and civilian employees but again their livelihood depends on the decisions taken in this House. Another sizeable group is made up of those who have retired from the armed services. During their service, most of these men and women, have been posted to and fro across the Dominion, and having once seen Victoria they naturally select it as a place of retirement. Their decision is usually based on a desire to live in a liveable climate and the Victorian way of life. Financially, though, their decision is often hard to support. Victoria, as hon. members will have gathered, operates on a very narrow economic
base and the retired serviceman in Victoria is almost always under-employed. The three categories I have mentioned are all dependent upon financial arrangements made by the federal government, and I shall have a few words to say about those arrangements later.
In addition to the three groups noted, many Victorians are employed by the provincial governments and by our educational facilities, which are becoming noted for their academic excellence. The University of Victoria has been able to engage some lecturers of international reputation, attracted again, I believe, by our climate and our way of life. Hon. members will note that all the people I have mentioned are employed in the public sector, and in truth this describes Victoria. The private sector of our economy is narrow indeed. We have tourism in the summer, a small and dwindling but efficient ship-building industry, a couple of sawmills. So it can be readily seen that the public sector outweighs the private sector to a greater degree than in almost any other city in Canada, with the possible exception of Ottawa itself.
I should now like to speak about the effects that government action, or inaction, have had on the various segments of the economy of Victoria. In the private sector we suffer from three disadvantages which are difficult to overcome: the extra cost of handling and shipping to and from the mainland; the distances to markets, particularly Canadian markets, and finally our higher labour costs. For these reasons, it is sometimes difficult for us to bid competitively on a dollars and cents basis for federal contracts such as shipbuilding. It is my contention, however, that we are entitled to a reasonable share of such contracts. We pay taxes but we do not believe that paying taxes should be our only type of participation in the federal economy.
In a flatulent press release about a year ago, the government announced that defence contracts were to be allotted henceforth on a zonal basis. To my knowledge there has been no indication of this reasonable concept being put into effect. I should like to point out to the government that Victoria shipyards are second to none in efficiency. Our yards have never burned a ship on the ways; our yards have never subjected a ship to the acid test given the Restigouche; our shipyards have never submitted a bill for two and a half times the estimate for a refit.
The plight of the pensioner is very close to anyone representing Victoria whether on the local, provincial or national level. The federal government has shown itself to be remarkably indifferent to the disastrous effects to inflation on those on fixed incomes.
A rise in the cost of living is immediately reflected in a lowering of the living standards of approximately half my constituents. For those living on the old age pension and supplement only, it means less food or meaner shelter. For those with a fixed income of their own, it means having to give up some things for which they had worked and saved to enjoy in their old age. They feel tricked and cheated by society and that is what your inflationary policies do to them. I could go on but hope to have another opportunity to speak on what I would consider to be an equitable basic old age pension. I have accordingly placed
on the order paper a notice of motion recommending a basic old age pension of $150 per month. I find myself in support of the increased income supplement instituted by the British Columbia government and deplore the legalistic quibbling of the federal government as to the obligation to share under the Canadian Assistance Plan.
Perhaps a few words about our place in confederation might not be amiss at this time. During the recent election campaign the touring media fell into a recurring habit, when in British Columbia, of searching for B.C. separatists. As far as I am concerned, separatism in British Columbia is a figment of the imagination of eastern writers. The central government, and particularly the present one, give us sufficient provocation, but our hearts are loyal and will remain so. We do, however, reserve the right to point out the inequities of the federal government. We look for an even-handedness by the central authority and recently have felt that it has been lacking.
A recent example of this is the government policy or lack of policy regarding federal properties in urban areas. Thirteen days before the last election, the government found itself able to purchase some $30 million worth of privately held land in the city of Toronto to be used for the enjoyment of the people of that city. In June the city of Victoria had been treated quite differently. A parcel of land wanted by the city for use as a waterfront park but owned by the federal government was sold, not given to the city by the federal government, at $50,000 an acre, $20,000 cash, the remainder on a mortgage at 9 per cent interest. I would not want you to be under any misapprehension. We do not wish the people of Toronto to be deprived of a park if it is the policy of this government to give parks to cities, and we do not mind the government refusing us if it is government policy to refuse people when they ask for Crown land for parks, but to give land on the one hand and refuse it on the other while charging our taxpayers usurious interest rates offends our sense of fairness.
When I suggested to the Minister of Supply and Services (Mr. Goyer) that we would like to be treated in the same fashion as Toronto, the answer was that the Toronto land was to be a national park. To me this conjures up visions of "Smokey the Bear" patrolling the southern end of Bay Street, but to the overburdened taxpayers of Victoria paying high interest rates to their own government it is not funny.
I think this uneven-handedness has been exemplified by the operations of the Department of Regional Economic Expansion. It was our understanding that regions having serious unemployment problems might reasonably expect to qualify for economic expansion. British Columbia had
61,000 unemployed in September, 1972, as against a comparable national figure of 459,000; that is, B.C. had 13J per cent of the nation's unemployed. To alleviate the distress, DREE had at that time allotted 1.4 per cent of its funds to British Columbia. The figures speak for themselves. We had 13 i per cent of the illness and received 1.4 per cent of the medicine. The patient can hardly be blamed for feeling neglected.
I should like to point out as well that recent figures show that the metropolitan region of Vancouver has for eight months of the last 12 had the highest unemployment
The Address-Mr. McKinnon
rate in all of Canada, and again this month it is the highest. Why, in B.C., we are only to be allowed to have a designated region several hundred miles away from this great pool of unemployment is beyond me. I spoke of 13 j per cent unemployment in September and the treatment we got. I believe that it was just about the time of the release of these figures that the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources (Mr. Macdonald) made his contribution to the national debate by announcing that henceforth the sale of firecrackers would be prohibited. The script appeared to have been written by T. S. Eliot and the establishment had apparently decided that the government would go out, not with a bang, but with a whimper. Perhaps the hon. member for Verdun supplies the second half of the quotation, which is from what could be the litany of the present regime, the Hollow Men: "We are the hollow men, we are the stuffed men, leaning together."
I hope that my remarks may have explained to this House why and how British Columbia, particularly Vancouver Island and specifically Victoria, has come to a state of disenchantment with this government. As I said at the beginning, each constituency is different and each constituency has its problems. The problem is not that the majority have been silent but that this government has not been listening.
So, here we are in this House, at a crucial time in our history. The other day we heard the leader of the New Democratic Party give his familiar criticism of corporations. It was like old times for me. In British Columbia we have not heard much about corporate welfare bums since the NDP became owners of a railway, a hydro monopoly, one of the largest ferry fleets in the world and other corporations. This appears not only to qualify them as corporate owners, but even worse, as conglomerate owners, and the word "conglomerate" is even worse than the word "Corporation" in the NDP lexicon, I believe. At the same time, Mr. Barrett announced that he was providing government funds to pay for up to one-third of the cost of building an automobile plant if the foreign corporation would build it in British Columbia. On top of their other acquisitions, of course, they have $500 million in the bank. The silence on the subject out there has become defeaning since the B.C. NDP government decided to practice a little ideological nepotism by granting a contract to a Manitoba corporation, NDP sponsored, to supply buses to their corporation, B.C. Hydro.
The interesting part is that apparently public tendering is passe with the NDP when in office. The Minister of Municipal Affairs in British Columbia was in a hurry and said; "I'm not going to horse around with tendering." In British Columbia, the taxpayers will never know how much these two NDP corporations have ripped off them. So I wish to thank the member for York South (Mr. Lewis) for his nostalgic trip down memory lane, back to the high ideals and piety of the NDP when out of office.
The election results have transformed the Prime Minister into a modern day Uriah Heep, and the leader of the New Democratic Party has enjoyed a position of kingmaker for the last two months. If he now makes the wrong decision they may be the last enjoyable months he will have for a long time. Perhaps I might quote what Uriah Heep said to another David:
The Address-Mr. J. R. Gauthier
Now come, I have got some of you under the harrow. Think twice before it goes over you.
Then, he continues:
I will be a friend to you, in spite of you. So now you know what you've got to expect.
The other David, speaking to his Uriah Heep, said:
I have shown you often enough that I despise you. Why should I dread your doing your worst to all about you? What else do you ever do?
A couple of days ago the hon. member for York South suggested we wait and give this government yet another chance to bring forward legislation before voting it out. My reply is: Why wait for spring, do it now.
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY