May 3, 1928

LIB

Peter Heenan (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. HEENAN:

The newspapers said that

the commissioner for the Yukon had completed his part, but the agreement has not yet been fully completed.

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DEPARTMENT OP PUBLIC WORKS


The house in committee of supply, Mr. Johnston in the chair. Public Works-St. John quarantine station -Partridge island-repairs and improvements, $13,600.


CON

Richard Burpee Hanson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HANSON:

I would ask the minister if this is the only vote for any public building in the whole province of New Brunswick for

the present year.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Hon. J. C. ELLIOTT (Minister of Public Works):

This is all in the main estimates.

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CON

Item agreed to. 1 Maritime provinces generally - Dominion public buildings [DOT]- improvements, repairs, etc., $43,000.


CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

What are the details?

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

This is the usual annual

vote for works of improvement, repairs and renewals throughout the province.

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CON

Robert Watson Grimmer

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GRIMMER:

Will the minister explain the delay in making improvements to the post office at St. Stephen? Four or five years ago the government took the matter into consideration and at that time were fully aware that the building was altogether inadequate to carry on the public business satisfactorily. Tendersl have been called for alterations, but although this has been the annual procedure for five years past, nothing whatever has been done to improve The accommodation. A gentleman who is supposed to control the county patronage has sought to excuse the delay by stating that in the fall it is too late and in the spring it is too early to make the necessary alterations; but the people of the locality cannot see why work of this character-inside work- should not be undertaken at any season of the year. The government is well aware that since the inauguration of the parcels post the accommodation at this point is altogether inadequate. Perhaps the minister will state why these much-needed alterations have not been taken in hand.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

I have not in mind the

case mentioned by my hon. friend, but I shall be glad to ascertain the reasons for the delay.

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CON

Richard Burpee Hanson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HANSON:

I can confirm what the

hon. member for Charlotte (Mr. Grimmer) has said. St. Stephen is the principal town in the county, and manufacturing is carried there extensively. It is a border town and an important customs port. The customs staff occupy the second floor of the public building. It is a nice substantial building, but it was built more than forty years

ago and has become inadequate for the business of the community. Four or five years ago the government did undertake to increase the capacity of the building, but nothing has been done in the meantime, and we have never been able to get a satisfactory reason for the delay. I am sure the Postmaster General1 (Mr. Veniot) is fully acquainted with the local condition and, if appealed to, will tell his colleague that there ought to be increased postal accommodation at St. Stephen. I ask the minister to let the item stand so that he may have ample opportunity to collect the necessary data.

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CON

Robert Watson Grimmer

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GRIMMER:

I also should like this

item to stand until the minister has made inquiries. The increased accommodation to which I have referred is absolutely necessary to carry on the public business.

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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

This building, in common with many other public buildings, I have no doubt has become inadequate for the business of to-day. As was intimated when these estimates were under discussion on a previous occasion, the policy of the department has been to undertake no new work that could be postponed. No doubt some time in the future we shall have to undertake an extensive program of public buildings at a good many places that are not now adequately provided for. I am quite prepared to accept the statements made by my hon. friends, but I do not think it is necessary that this item should stand. Later on when we are dealing with Dominion buildings generally I shall be quite willing for them to bring up the question again.

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CON

Richard Burpee Hanson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HANSON:

Mr. Chairman, I am not quite satisfied with the minister's policy to delay the erection of needed public buildings for the conduct of the country's business when I recall that two years ago we voted a very substantial sum of money, just on the eve of an election, to provide a public building at the little village of Kensington, in the county of Prince, Prince Edward Island, where the postal revenue in twenty years would not be as much as the revenue of the St. Stephen post office in one year. Furthermore, I am reminded that quite recently we have voted a very large sum of money to level buildings in Ottawa in order to beautify the capital, and now we have the confession of the minister that there is no money available to improve the postal and customs facilities at a border point like St. Stephen where the present facilities are absolutely inadequate. He has only to refer to his colleague the Postmaster General to ascertain that this fur-

Supply-Public Works-Maritimes

ther accommodation is essential to the proper conduct of the country's business. We are not asking for a new post office. We are only asking that the present building be extended to give more floor space. That is all that is necessary and the expense involved would not be large. I am satisfied that $10,006 would probably be quite sufficient. That is only a guess on my part but I am sure that a modest expenditure would suffice to put that building into proper shape to carry on the public business, as it cannot to-day. It is idle to talk to me about not having any money to spend on these buildings, after the spectacle we have had of voting money for Ottawa. I am sure t'he government will hear from the country about that matter if they refuse localities such as St. Stephen, McAdam Junction and other places I might mention, the necessary small votes to enable them to carry on the public business adequately and to house public officials satisfactorily. I wish I had a photograph of the post office at McAdam Junction to exhibit here to-day. I have no doubt the Postmaster General would blush, as would also the Minister of Public Works if they could get an idea of the state of affairs there at the present time.

I am not quite satisfied to let this item go through unless I have a promise that the situation will be taken care of in the supplementary estimates. If the minister will go after the thing properly and get satisfactory data from the Postmaster General or from the district superintendent in St. John, he will realize how urgently this work is needed. Why there has been a delay of four or five years, and the repeated calling of tenders that have never been recognized, has always been a mystery to me. I do not suggest that there is anything political about it; so far as I know there is not. The town of St. Stephen is Conservative, always has been and always will be. There will never be any question about the government getting or losing votes by reason of anything they may do in that town. The town will vote against this government whenever the opportunity may arise.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

That may be the

reason.

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CON

Richard Burpee Hanson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HANSON:

That should not be the

reason, and I am sure the minister would never take such a stand. I want to impress upon him the necessity of increasing the postal facilities at that point. I have not beside me at the moment anything to show the revenue from the post office at St. Stephen, but it must be large for a town of that size and the magnitude of the business done.

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LIB
CON

Richard Burpee Hanson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HANSON:

Then the customs revenue at that port must be many times $17,000 per annum because the importations must be large. I would ask the minister to let this item stand over until he has time to make the necessary inquiries. I am not blaming him; probably he has had no notice of our intention to point out these facts. It is only fair to him that he should be made aware of the situation. The minister is courteous to me and I want to be fair to him. I will therefore ask him to let the item stand over until he has the necessary information, and we can return to the subject later. I appeal to him to consider as favourably as possible the placing of a vote in the supplementary estimates in order to have the work done once for all, so as to stop the present state of affairs, of calling for tenders and then disregarding them.

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CON

Robert Watson Grimmer

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GRIMMER:

This is nothing new;

the department and the government are well aware of the facts. It was the department that contemplated making the alterations in the first place. They sent engineers down there and had plans and specifications prepared, which were approved by the government. They are on file in the department to-day. The people were led to believe that the work would begin away back in 1923 or 1924 and they have been looking forward to these alterations. They cannot understand the attitude of the government in calling for tenders and, when two or three tenders are sent in, not recognizing any. The government understand the situation thoroughly; they are perfectly well aware of the facts. Why should not something be done in this matter? That is all we ask. Give us some information as to when the work will be proceeded with. If the government are not in a position to make a definite statement at the present time I would request that the item remain over until that information is available, so that we may have something specific to tell the people who are looking forward to this work being done. If the government do not intend having the work done why do they not say so, and the people will endeavour to make the best of the situation. But why continue to tell them each year, as has been done for the last five years, that the work will begin in the spring and tenders called for? As a matter of fact it makes no difference when the work is done because it is inside of building; and where there are not enough boxes

2630 COMMONS

Supply-Public Works-Maritimes

to supply the people who are willing to pay for them. And the government know this. I ask that the item stand over until we have further information.

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Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OP PUBLIC WORKS
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May 3, 1928