We can see wonderful prospects for the future. We believe in that ultimate future. But surely we are not preaching blue ruin when we attempt to bring to the attention of the government certain critical conditions as they exist at this moment. This fear I mentioned a moment ago is having drastic results. The merchants of Stratford, while depending on trade with the surrounding rural districts, also depend on trade with people working in Stratford. The reports I receive are that not only the people already laid off are not spending but those still working, and particularly those employed at the C.N.R. shops, fear the future and as a consequence are not spending. This lack of spending naturally brings on the sequel of the merchants not buying and the manufacturers not producing, resulting in the subsequent lay-off of more workers.
I believe it is the government's duty to put these fears at rest. They should take the lead and assure their own employees in the C.N.R. that their jobs are secure. That in itself would give confidence to the country as a whole. In a question I placed on the order paper on February 3 information was sought as to any long-term plans for the full utilization of the locomotive shops in Stratford. The answer was to the effect that while these facilities were excellent for steam locomotive maintenance their use for other railway purposes is limited, but is under study.
Let me bring to the attention of the house the fact that an addition to these shops was completed in October, 1949, at an approximate cost of $500,000. Is it possible the management would be so shortsighted as to spend that kind of money in 1949 and not have some plan for the future? They surely must be able to utilize these premises for some purpose. How about building and repairing freight and passenger equipment?
I have heard it mentioned that gas turbine engines have been considered. If so, could these be developed in Stratford?
A special committee of the Stratford Canadian National Railways federated crafts, representing more than 1,000 mechanical workers, met recently in that city. The following is part of a statement issued by them as reported in the Stratford Beacon-Herald of February 19:
The following modernization has taken place in recent years:
1. A new annex costing over half a million dollars.
2. New machinery at an average cost of $400,000 a year over a period of the past eight years.
3. Modern lighting system.
4. New boilers and compressor in the power house.
5. Power supply control system for hydroelectric, and
6. Heat-treating furnaces.
The Stratford shops are strategically located for the handling of repairs to any type of locomotive in the central region, and the skill and ability _ of shop employees has long been recognized as being of the highest calibre.
It just does not make sense to me to spend millions of dollars on construction and equipment and have no ultimate utilization in mind as dieselization takes place.
The government seem to be most unconcerned about getting rid of the wheat in western Canada. May I say that if they were more concerned about this problem, and also about the export of other agricultural products, we would not be too apprehensive about the immediate future. I can mention cheese factories in my riding that have been closed because of lack of markets. I can tell the house of manufacturing concerns in Perth county that have been accustomed to selling a large percentage of their output in western Canada. Their sales and eventually their employment have dropped precipitously because money is not available in western Canada to purchase these goods. Why does that condition exist? It is because the farmers have wheat instead of money.
I assert, Mr. Speaker, that the present government is manifestly unfair when it seeks to blame a previous Conservative administration for having brought on the depression of 1929 which extended into the thirties. Further, it occurs to me that the government is acting today exactly as it did in 1929, when it ignored obvious signals of economic distress. In that year the late Prime Minister Mackenzie King was in office, and in the house he denied that there was serious unemployment. He later visited Winnipeg and was shocked to be met by a throng of men demanding that he find jobs for them. Surely in 1954 the government might take the lead in alleviating fear, as I think they could well do by establishing a committee to study the situation as it exists today.
Surely such important matters as the loss of stable export markets for the primary products of our farms, our forest, our fisheries and our mines, and the ever-increasing competition both at home and abroad for our secondary industries, warrant the attention of the members of this parliament. It is upon these factors in our economy that a high level of economic activity depends. These problems determine the amount of gainful employment available to our people, because lost markets mean closed factories, lay-offs on our railway systems, and eventually
depressed prices for our farmers because the unemployed worker is unable to buy the things he wants and needs.
Subtopic: MOTION FOR EXAMINATION BY COMMITTEE ON INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS