May 22, 1925

CON

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

Yes; but it was spent

there of course for the benefit of the country generally. It would be a very good object lesson to our people in the practice of economy if every .possible curtailment of expenditure could be effected, even at the risk to a certain extent of injuring some of our public works already constructed. To-day Canada is suffering from a very heavy burden of taxation, and I believe we need a striking object lesson not only in regard to economy in Dominion expenditure but economy in provincial and municipal expenditure. Out through the western country in many cities, including my own, there has been a determined attempt not to incur further expenditure on public works of any kind for some years to come. As a consequence, in my city the tax rate has been cut down by several mills. I believe the tax rate of the country generally could also be cut down substantially if we made up our minds absolutely to refrain from embarking on new public works that are not absolutely needed, and I would include my own city in this respect, because while there is room for a larger development of the harbours at the head of the lakes, and in the years to come this development will have to be undertaken, yet for the present I believe that enough work has been done there for the public services to be carried on very satisfactorily for a considerable time. I believe the general rule laid down by the previous government has been lived uip to by this government in dealing with requests for new post office buildings, and I think this

rule should be applied to all classes of public works except such as are absolutely necessary. With regard to new post office buildings, I have had requests for a couple in my riding, but I pointed out that post offices were not being built in other sections of the country, and as a result I got very /little complaint from my constituents, although of course they repeated their requests. I sympathize with this government as I did with its predecessors, who took the attitude that unnecessary expenditure of that kind should not be undertaken. I think it will be well worth while for the minister and the government to very seriously consider this proposition in the interest of the country generally. I am not offering my proposal for drastic economy in any spirit of criticism of the government, because I admit it is trying to live up to the rule laid down by the preceding administration, but our taxation has become so heavy and conditions generally are so depressed throughout the country that I believe it is the duty of every member to impress on the government the urgent necessity of drastic economy in public expenditures wherever this is possible without affecting service to the public.

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PRO

John Warwick King

Progressive

Mr. KING (Kootenay):

Mr. Chairman,

I think it is only fair to the department and to the government to call to the attention of the House and of the country the fact that since taking office we have refrained from starting any new. public works. It is true we found certain expenditures were contracted for by the late government, and it was neither wise nor possible for us to cancel those contracts. Generally speaking, this department has simply been trying to hold together our public works, keeping them in repair. This is borne out when I advise the 4 p.m. House in 1913-14 the late government appropriated $48,819,000 for public works; in 1914-15, the first year of the war, $47,154,000; in 1915-16, the second year of the war, $34,599,000; in 1916-17, the third year of the war, $30,828,000; and in 1917-18, the last year of the war, $20,914,000; in 192021, their last year of office, $22,680,000; and in 1921-22 their estimate was $20,609,000. The first year we came into office we appropriated for public works $16,784,000; and last year, 1923-24, $20,067,000, of which we expended $16,591,000. I think it may be fairly claimed that my hon. friend's argument has been fully met. It has been the policy of the department to curtail expenditures wherever possible. In studying the figures I have given it should be kept in mind that the value of

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the dollar in recent years is very much less than it was in 1914, and probably for the $16,000,000 we expended last year an equivalent amount of work could have been done for less than $12,000,000 in 1913, the cost of material and of wages having increased very largely since the war.

In regard to expenditure on public buildings, I do not take {'he gloomy view which to-day is so customary among hon. members opposite. I do not believe that Canada should board up her windows and cease expending money in the public interest. Considering the cry we hear from my hon. friends on the other side that the government should undertake relief works for the unemployed, I am not sure that it would not be a wise policy for us to expend some public money through the proper channels that would probably to some extent relieve unemployment. At any rate, that I believe is the course we should adopt rather than spend money on doles, as has been suggested.

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LIB

William F. Carroll

Liberal

Mr. CARROLL:

Has the government

erected any new public buildings since they took office?

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PRO

John Warwick King

Progressive

Mr. KING (Kootenay):

Yes, a few have

been built and others are under construction.

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PRO

Edward Joseph Garland

Progressive

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

Did the

minis: er say he thought it good policy to keep on spending money on public works in order to help unemployment?

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PRO
PRO
PRO

John Warwick King

Progressive

Mr. KING (Kootenay):

No. I said if, as

some members have been suggesting, the government should spend public moneys to relieve unemoloyment, this would be the way- in constructing useful public works.

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CON

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

Mr. Chairman, I was very careful to point out to the Minister that I was not specially criticizing the government, but apparently he reached the conclusion that I was doing so. I assure him I was not. I usually make it very clear when I am, but on this occasion I was not. I was condemning past government as well as the present government, and I would condemn future governments if they took the same course. While I admit there has been some cutting down in expenditures of this kind, the cutting down, to m.v mind at least, has not been to the extent that there should be. I know the pressure the minister is under; I doubt whether any minister of the government is under such great political and sectional pressure to get work

done as the Minister of Public Works. I know that very well because my own section has pressed very heavily at times, and sometimes has got what it has pressed for. But I say that as a general principle, in view of the heavy burden of taxation, we should carry out, so far as we can in this country, the same policy in regard to these public works as we have had in the last few years with regard to post offices.

With regard to boarding up the windows of Canada, there is a great tendency on the part of hon, gentlemen opposite, if any of us even suggest the conditions that exist, to retort that we are proposing to board up the windows of Canada. I do not take a back seat to the minister in my optimism regarding the ultimate destiny of this country, but I do in regard to the ultimate destiny of this country if this government goes on handling public affairs very much longer.

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LIB
CON

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

I do not think I will have to be used to my hon. friend very much longer. In regard to Canada's future, I am as optimistic as any man in this House, but I think it is a strange kind of optimism that refuses to look in the face the conditions which are before every member of this House and everybody in this country, and I would advise the minister to go out into the highways and byways, as some of us not in the ministry have more time to do than he has, and ask the businessmen and the workmen how conditions are; and then if he can come back here and be as optimistic as he and some of his friends pretend they are, I shall be very much surprised.

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LIB

James Malcolm

Liberal

Mr. MALCOLM:

It is quite true, as the

hon. member for East Algoma says, that the lake levels are down practically three and a half feet from the high point of eight years ago, but the assumption that the lowering of lake levels is entirely due to the diversion of water at Chicago is an incorrect assumption. The right hon. leader of the opposition makes a plea that we should call a halt, put the cards on the table and find out if this is going to go on. The fact is, and I want the House to realize this, that we have had almost as low water in the Great Lakes before, and the engineers on both sides of the line do not attribute over nine or ten inches of the lowering of the level of the Great Lakes to the Chicago diversion. The fact remains, however, that dredging that was sufficient two years ago is not sufficient today because there has been a lowering, and

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hon. members from the west must realize that if rates on grain from that very important district represented by my hon. friend from Fort William and Rainy River (Mr. Manion) are to be satisfactory, we have to give one hundred per cent carriage to the vessels, which we have not got to-day. All the heavy carriers of grain went through the Soo locks last year loaded to only eighty per cent capacity. The lightship at Sarnia was moved a half mile further out last year, and still boats with a draught of twenty feet bumped at that. The minister is faced with a problem. A great many of my friends from the west wish to see their grain carried on the Great Lakes, as far as possible, but that can never be done if the channel does not permit of one hundred per cent capacity carriage.

Mr. hon. friend from Fort William and Rainy River, in making allowances for the government, suggested that pressure was always heavy on the Minister of Public Works. As the representative of a riding with a continuous coast line and a lot of small harbours, where rail communication is not a factor, where the harbour is the only way out for the fisherman and the farmer, I want to say to this House that I know many members on this side have gone to the minister and asked him not to spend all the money that was recommended by the engineering staff. I think members of this House have assisted the Minister of Public Works in his desire not to have too great an expenditure this year. I know it was my pleasure to draw a pencil through two or three recommendations myself, and I think that condition is more general than hon. members from the west realize.

Public works in the Dominion of Canada, on the waterways are a good deal more important than some of us realize. First, there is the movement of our tonnage of grain eastward. Second, there is the moving of coal and general merchandise to the head of the lakes. If you remove, as one of my hon. friends has suggested, this water competition, I do not know what railway rates we are going to have, because water competition has governed railway rates to a very great extent.

There is another respect in which the Great Lakes are important, and it is one which I think should not be lost sight of. Our tourist trade in the central part of this country, as has been pointed out by my hon. friend from Muskoka (Mr. Hammdll) on different occasions, is becoming a very important trade, and it might be interesting to some of my friends to know that at one small point in my riding where we had to spend only eight hundred or a thousand dollars last year on dredgfMr. Malcolm. 1

ing, there are families who have come to occupy 500 cottages. A summer population of 3,000 has sprung up in this district on lake Huron, and a very considerable amount of American money is left at this point. One of the greatest assets we have to offset the money that Canadians spend in the United States is the asset we have in our Great Lakes and in our summer places, where some of that money is got back; and if the actual cash returns could be compiled from these small expenditures-which would foe very difficult-I think my hon. friends would not have very much criticism to make of these expenditures.

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PRO

Arthur John Lewis

Progressive

Mr. LEWIS:

It may be true as stated by

the hon. member (Mr. Malcolm) that certain members on the other side of the House have been to the minister and have drawn a pencil through certain items of proposed expenditure, but the fact remains that if you compare the main vote this year with the main vote last year you will find there has been an increase of a hundred per cent. The supplementaries for this year are not yet down and, therefore, we do not know what the final result will be. How much greater it would have been if some hon. gentlemen opposite had not drawn a pencil through a few of the items, it is very difficult to know.

My hon. friend (Mr. Carroll) said that he could take me to hundreds of little villages that have been depleted as the result of the government not making proper provision to look after these people. All I wish to say in reply is that year by year we are asked to spend millions of dollars in Canada to look after certain interests of these people, and if there are hundreds of settlements still going out of business, what would be the total debt of this dominion if we looked after them all I Our debt in that case would be impossible to compute. If there are settlements in Canada that are depleted to-day as the result of this government not giving them proper facilities, I can show you, on the other hand, in western Canada certain districts that have been depleted as the result of this government spoonfeeding industries for the last fifty years, and if that kind of thing is to continue we will have settlements of this kind all over Canada. I believe the time must come when industries and people requiring the dredging of these streams and the building of wharves must learn to pay their own way, stand on their own feet. That is the only way, so far as I can see, in which we are ever going to get back to a sound business basis in Canada and make this countiy prosperous.

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LIB

James Malcolm

Liberal

Mr. MALCOLM:

Does the hon. member advocate putting the railways on a cost basis in carrying traffic?

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PRO
LIB
PRO

Arthur John Lewis

Progressive

Mr. LEWIS:

-that these little wharves

or the facilities he was speaking about had a direct reference to the transportation of grain by the Great Lakes. I cannot see for one moment that any one of the works mentioned here has any influence on the carriage of that grain or the freight rates. In a particular case here and there it may have special reference to the freight rate across the lakes; but the great majority of them have no reference whatever to that kind of service. As far as the railways are concerned I think it has been shown conclusively by our western representatives, and also by the counsel that argued the case, that the carriage of grain is a paying proposition; and the very fact that this year the deficit on the Canadian National Railways, as stated in this House, was due to the fact that the crop was not as large bears out the contention.

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Item agreed to. Blind River-to replace warehouse, $2,100.


PRO

May 22, 1925