Charles Humbert THOMAS

THOMAS, Charles Humbert, B.A., M.A.

Personal Data

Progressive Conservative
Moncton (New Brunswick)
Birth Date
June 24, 1915
Deceased Date
January 14, 1976
businessman, wholesaler

Parliamentary Career

June 25, 1968 - September 1, 1972
  Moncton (New Brunswick)
October 30, 1972 - May 9, 1974
  Moncton (New Brunswick)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 45 of 45)

September 25, 1968

Mr. Charles H. Thomas (Moncton):

My question is for the Minister of Transport, Mr. Speaker. In view of the statement by the president of the National Research Council that Canadian railways are likely to lose much Europe to Asia traffic to a United States land bridge, what specific plans can the minister announce which will enable the C.N.R. and the C.P.R. to meet the challenge of United States container trains?

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September 23, 1968

Mr. Charles H. Thomas (Moncton):

Mr. Speaker, as a newcomer to this house but no stranger to Your Honour's great reputation, may I add my congratulations on your reelection as Speaker. I would like also to add my congratulations to the newly elected Deputy Speaker and to the mover (Mr. Corbin) and seconder (Mr. Marchand) of the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. In the case of the mover and seconder I must mingle my congratulations on their efforts with commiseration for the problem they faced in trying to be enthusiastic about such a shoddy and empty thing as the Speech from the Throne. Previous speakers on this side of the house have already dealt with its shortcomings. I do not wish to be repetitive. I would simply say of this speech that it missed a golden opportunity to excite the imagination of the Canadian people; it failed in perception of the real problems facing this country; it was vague, windy and depressing.

We from the Atlantic region had looked forward to the Speech from the Throne in view of the promises made in our area by government spokesmen during the recent election campaign. We had been led to believe that we stood on the verge of a great new era of development and progress. Today we feel let down. There is nothing in the government's outline of legislative intention to indicate that there is any awareness of the basic problems, the real needs of the Atlantic region. We have again been bypassed, as we have been ever since 1963.

This may be not so strange, however, when one considers the results of the election in the Atlantic provinces. It may be, as one western member has already suggested, that Liberal concern and Liberal action will be confined to those areas which returned a larger percentage of Liberal members. On the basis of the evidence so far it seems that the just society, as another distinguished colleague so aptly put it, is just for Grits.

I am not alone among residents of the Atlantic region in being suspicious of many of the instant schemes put forward. We have suffered too long from a proliferation of boards, commissions and departmental agencies set up to solve various regional problems. This is an approach that experience has shown to be wasteful and ineffective, a shotgun approach. As the second annual report of

September 23, 1968

the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, just released, puts it:

The response on Ottawa's part has been inadequate, unimaginative and lacking in a real understanding of the nature of Canadian society.

Among the consequences, out-migration at a rate incompatible with the closing of the income gap between the Atlantic provinces and the rest of Canada has not been slowed, and APEC proposed development goals of a year ago are far short of fruition. What we need first is a sober reassessment of our basic problem, a lack of job opportunities for our people, and a real determination to do something about it. This must be followed by a common sense approach to solving the problem, utilizing the simplest possible organization. We need co-ordination of effort, not centralization of control.

Many of us have been alarmed and disillusioned by the emphasis given by this government to that hoary old solution for all our problems, the department of regional development. Let me call as witness on this point someone whom the government must consider impeccable because he is a former Liberal member of parliament from Nova Scotia, a former parliamentary secretary and at present a key official in the office of the President of the Privy Council (Mr. Macdonald). I refer to Dr. J. B. Stewart.

[DOT] (4:20 p.m.)

In this house on April 13, 1965, he made some very astute observations on this very point. They may be found at page 342 of Hansard for that date. I will not quote him extensively but he said in part:

-I am glad that the government has resisted the temptation, an almost inevitable temptation, I suppose, to set up a ministry lor regional development. That would have been a mistake. What is needed is the ordinary departmental approach to this problem, co-ordinated by the minister whose job it is to co-ordinate the works of the several departments, namely the Prime Minister.

I echo those sentiments, Mr. Speaker. Proper and adequate bodies already exist to do the things that are necessary for the betterment of the Atlantic region. The last thing we need is a rash of new ones. One of the principal, and perhaps the most valuable, of the existing bodies is the Atlantic Development Board. If only it were allowed to do what it was set up to do, free of hobbles, interference and red tape, we might expect progress. My great fear is that in the enthusiasm to paint over old problems with new names, the Atlantic Development Board may be rendered useless, lost in the shuffle.

The Address-Mr. Charles H. Thomas

In this, my maiden speech, I want to avoid appearing too local or parochial. This should not be too difficult because the matters with which I as the member for Moncton am concerned are common to the entire Atlantic region, such as antiquated and inadequate transportation facilities, lack of job opportunities, high cost of living, lack of adequate housing, chronic unemployment, running in our area often at twice the rate of the national figure, lack of a practical system for welfare and social assistance, underemployment, industrial starvation-the list is endless. The main reason I speak of my home riding of Moncton is that the city of Moncton, because of its location, is a natural and inescapable hub for the Atlantic region in such matters as transportation and hence industrial development.

Moncton has been cast in the role of the transportation and distribution centre of the maritime area. Changes in the economic picture of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia or much of New Brunswick are inevitably reflected in the economy of the Moncton area. So you will understand, Mr. Speaker, that if now or in the future I plead the cause of Moncton I am in effect pleading the cause of the Atlantic region as a whole, and vice-versa.

I was more than a little perturbed to hear the hon. member for Madawaska-Victoria (Mr. Corbin) mention his views on the corridor road proposed to link Quebec with the province of New Brunswick through the state of Maine. He dismissed it as unlikely to be of much economic benefit to his particular area because its proposed junction with the Canadian section would lie in southern New Brunswick. This, I suggest, is a narrow, shortsighted view. It reflects the type of thinking that makes attainment of true regional, social and economic parity so difficult of achievement in this country.

Such projects cannot be looked at simply in terms of the interest of one municipality, one small section of one province. It is generally conceded in the Atlantic region that such a corridor road would bring economic benefits and hence social benefits not only to southern New Brunswick or the province of New Brunswick but to the entire area of Canada's Atlantic territories. I am sure the hon. member for Madawaska-Victoria would be among the first to admit this, were he to give the matter honest consideration beyond the restrictions imposed by purely local thinking.

September 23, 1968


The Address-Mr. Charles H. Thomas

There are many things that could be done to help the Atlantic region, such as new national park development served by good modern highways to stimulate and increase tourism, the bettering of existing and very popular tourist facilities, the provision of a better road, rail and air network generally, not forgetting, of course, such vital links as the Prince Edward Island causeway. But at the heart of the matter lies the problem of producing within the four provinces of the east coast a sound industrial base, capable of regular and natural growth, free, when possible, of subsidy or other public assistance and able to hold its own in the markets of central Canada, North America and the world.

Only by creating such a base can we begin to solve the pressing social problems such as poverty, unemployment, poor health, inadequate educational facilities and a gradually wasting population. In this we must think nationally in terms of turning areas of national liability into sources of national asset. One of the first steps that must be taken in establishing a healthy industrial climate in the Atlantic region, I believe, is to tackle and solve the problem of excessive transportation costs. It would be idle for us to talk of just societies, regional equality and a united nation if this question is not solved. The ruinous cost of transportation is the single greatest cause of Atlantic region backwardness today.

We do not want handouts. We do not want to live on the dole. We want help to be able to help ourselves. All we ask of the rest of Canada is an understanding that our problems are not ours alone but the nation's and that the sooner we can look after ourselves the sooner will all Canadians benefit.

As things now stand, federal government assistance puts a premium on destitution. Their measures, however well-intentioned, have erected unemployment into a way of life for many. No able-bodied person can qualify for relief unless totally unemployed. This leaves a great segment of our population underemployed, working, but earning below a human subsistence level, and completely unassisted. They should be helped. They must be helped. But such help as social welfare in the form of relief payments must be strictly a stopgap emergency measure. What we want is a plan to provide the work that the people of the Atlantic region are willing, able and eager to do. Let me paraphrase the late Sir Winston Churchill by saying "give us the jobs and we'll turn out the tools", and by tools I mean the goods, the services, the abilities and

the brains which the Atlantic region is capable of producing in abundance for their own advancement and the advancement of the whole nation.

However, Mr. Speaker, I must come back to what I said before, namely that in our region the key to everything is transportation, complete, efficient, fast and economical transportation by road, by rail, by water and by air. This means only one thing

a new, comprehensive transportation policy.

I was startled the other day in the house to hear the Minister of Transport (Mr. Hellyer), in answer to a question from the hon. member for Cumberland-Colchester North (Mr. Coates), avoid the problem of formulating an adequate transportation policy by saying he was hoping to receive some useful suggestions from the premiers of the Atlantic provinces. Surely the minister has been long enough in office to know that there are more than 80 extensive and thoughtful briefs on file from various municipalities, provinces and other bodies setting out practical suggestions in great detail.

Of course, these briefs were filed last session with the standing committee on transportation and communications. Unfortunately the committee never got around to hearing these briefs on their home ground because they were impeded by the notoriously bad transportation bottlenecks in the Atlantic provinces, stuck in the ice of the Northumberland strait, snowbound on Prince Edward Island, where there is still no all-weather transportation route, and subsequently recalled to Ottawa by the party whips.

I should like to suggest to the minister that this standing committee be immediately reconstituted, that it meet as soon as possible and set up a series of meetings and public hearings on the ground where the chief transportation problems exist, namely, the Atlantic provinces.

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September 23, 1968

Mr. Thomas (Moncton):

May I quote the following from the Moncton Times-Transcript in connection with this suggestion:

It is clear to Atlantic residents-having suffered from transportation shortcomings for years-that there is little hope of any constructive action coming from Ottawa as long as those whose task it is to make the required changes try to do so from the comfort of the Commons chamber.

I agree wholeheartedly with this observation. I believe that what is required is on the

September 23, 1968 COMMONS

spot investigation of transportation conditions by members of the committee in person and in the locality.

The same editorial goes on to speak of the blow to maritime industry struck by changes in the freight rates. This is a complex subject and one on which I will not attempt to elaborate at this time, but it is one to which I will return at a later date. Suffice it to say that this is one of the aspects of a poor transportation picture which grows worse daily and is continually militating against efforts at industrial development.

[DOT] (4:30 p.m.)

Then, too, there is the newest concept in transportation, which is actually a revival of the old idea of North America acting as a land bridge between Europe and Asia. Changes in transportation technology indicate that goods can be shipped between Asia and Europe more cheaply and faster over a North American land route than through the Panama Canal. The freight is trans-shipped in standard sized containers on special trains that are never uncoupled and are used only for this purpose.

But we must move quickly to provide a deep-water superport on the east coast, capable of handling these huge new supercarriers. The United States is all too aware of the potential involved and is already negotiating with the land carriers to use United States ports. The maritimes area has several possible sites, any of which can be developed, and such development should be an integral part of the over-all transportation scheme.

In my initial address in this house I have tried simply to highlight some of the problems that face the people of my own constituency, and the Atlantic region as a whole. There is a great deal more to be said on all these subjects, but I believe individual topics can be dealt with more appropriately when various special pieces of legislation come before the house.

If nothing else, I would like to feel that members, government members in particular, have caught something of the urgency of the situation in the Atlantic region and that they now more fully appreciate that this is not merely a regional problem but a national one.

I trust, too, that they are not under the impression that we of the Atlantic provinces are seeking more hand-outs, more money or begging in any sense. We are not. We are seeking more effective forms of assistance in


The Address-Mr. Kaplan order that we may become self sufficient and play our proper and full role, as Canadians, in making our country prosper and grow.

One tangible way in which the government could show that they appreciate the urgency of our position would be by activating the transportation and communications committee and having it visit the area of greatest concern. We from the Atlantic region came to Ottawa expecting much, Mr. Speaker. We were promised much, if not by the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) on his fleeting election campaign visits, then certainly by his spokesmen. So far, we have been disappointed. The Prime Minister frequently takes public pride in not having made any election promises. He may not have made many explicit promises, but he made one gigantic implicit promise. His whole election pitch was one great promise to the Canadian people that, under him, things would be changed; things would be done; things would be different. He was elected to head a majority government. He is now Prime Minister of Canada. Let him now redeem the promise that brought him to office. Thank you.

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September 19, 1968

Mr. Charles Thomas (Moncton):

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of Transport. In view of the fact that last week the minister could not indicate what action the government would take to assist shippers in the Atlantic provinces because of the exorbitant l.c.l. rates, can the minister now tell the house whether some form of immediate relief is contemplated?

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