June 4, 1942

CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. COLDWELL:

Another woman has a room for which she wants $55 a month, without meals, if one person occupies it. If two girls take it she will give them breakfast and evening dinner if they pay her $45 a month each. It will be realized at once that with the salaries paid in this city at the present time neither the auditor general's office nor the civil service generally can be doing other than exploiting these girls. I will not say the officials are exploiting them, but they are being exploited jointly by ourselves and by the landladies. In some instances girls are not permitted even to entertain friends in rooms for which they have paid these high prices. I repeat that these cases are authentic. Some girls have been taken to places which were not fit for girls to live in. Something needs to be done by the government immediately to cope with this situation in Ottawa. A few days ago I noticed in a local paper a report of a discussion in the local council. This newspaper, dated May 22, 1942-

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LIB

Thomas Vien (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Would the hon. member indicate to what item he refers?

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. COLDWELL:

I am talking about the stall of the auditor general's office, and about the personnel under the civil service commission, which is next. I was directing my remarks to the two items, but if you wish me to make two speeches, Mr. Chairman, I will do so.

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LIB

Thomas Vien (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

The item which comes next is "supply of personnel for war services." The hon. member is now discussing the housing accommodation for that personnel?

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. COLDWELL:

I am discussing the supply of personnel for war services, with special reference to the housing accommodation in this city for that personnel. And may

I say to you, Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, that unless these girls are provided with proper remuneration and proper accommodation we shall not be able to get girls to come to this city to form part of the personnel of the civil service. Therefore I suggest I am within the bounds of these items.

This matter has been before the council of the city of Ottawa. The city has made representations to the government asking that it provide accommodation for the lower paid female help, which is included in the personnel mentioned in the item. The reply from the Prime Minister to the approach by the controllers of the city was most unsatisfactory. This letter, from Mr. Henry, Mr. King's private secretary, states:

Mr. King wishes me to say that the government is not unmindful of the need in this respect, and has been giving a great deal of consideration to the matter. There are of course a number of circumstances which must be taken into consideration. One difficulty has been that some of the controllers of war-materials and building supplies have found it very difficult, if not impossible, to release certain supplies at this time which are required for war purposes.

Yet at the same council meeting it was reported that a brewers' warehouse is being erected on Catherine street, that a permit therefor has been issued, and that the necessary building materials had been released for the purpose. I submit if materials can be found for a brewers' warehouse we ought to be able to find materials to provide decent accommodation in Ottawa for our employees.

As I have said, many of the girls come from constituencies far away. Some come from my own constituency in western Canada,. I know that many of them are suffering in health, and the loss in days by the departments is really a reflection of the conditions under which they live. I am not going to give figures, but if the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Munitions and Supply will look into the health records in their departments they will find that an enormous number of days are being lost because of ill health among young girls working in Ottawa.

If we are to appropriate the large sum of money mentioned in the item to the supply of personnel for war services, and if we are bringing into this city girls from outside points, then it is our bounden duty to see to it that proper accommodation is afforded.

The same condition existed in Washington. In that city the government is erecting hostels for the girls. Under date line of May 12 a dispatch from Washington states that the girls working there for the government, who will live in a new federally-financed hostel for

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women, will pay $34.50 a mouth for a single room, without bath. However, they may entertain. That rate of course is too high for the girls employed in Ottawa under the present salary schedule.

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LIB
?

Thomas Miller Bell

Mr. COLD WELL:

Yes. But it does show that in Washington, where they are paying higher salaries, some attempt is being made by the government to deal with a similar situation. When we look around the city and see huge temporary office buildings going up, we must realize that if we are going to bring people to this city to work in government offices we ought to make provision whereby they may have decent accommodation during the hours they are not employed.

I know how difficult it is to find accommodation. I have in mind at the moment a gentleman who for over a week has been looking for a single room in which he may sleep. In some places landladies exact conditions which are neither right nor just. For example, a case I have before me indicates that girls who were paying a high price for a room were told, "You may sleep there, but you must be out of this room all day."

It seems to me it is the duty of the government and of parliament-because after all parliament is the expression of the will of the people, or ought to be-to do their utmost to remedy this situation. I have taken this opportunity to bring the matter to the attention of the Minister of Finance and the committee. I do not know whether he is aware of it or not, but I may say to the minister that quite often it is said, "Not only can we not get building supplies, but even if we could get them the Minister of Finance or the treasury board would not let us erect these buildings." Indeed the Minister of Finance and the treasury board sometimes have to bear the brunt of criticism of the lack of social services and social amenities in this dominion. The stumbling block, we are told is, that the Minister of Finance or the treasury board is not seized of the need for improvements, but that is no excuse for parliament, and it is, I think, a bad excuse for the government. I urge the minister and the government to give consideration to this problem which so nearly affects the lives of a large number of young people in this city, particularly those who may in after years be the wives of the men who will return from overseas and become the mothers of the future generations of Canadians.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

I desire to say a word about this problem. The condition of the young girls who have arrived in Ottawa

to take war-time positions was called to my attention very soon after I had assumed the responsibility of this position. On that occasion the question was the rate of salary paid to these young girls, and I felt it incumbent upon me to urge upon the treasury board or the civil service commission or whoever was seized with authority a revision of their salaries. I am glad to be able to say that that has been done. As to whether or not it has been done adequately,-1 do not at the moment desire to express any opinion.

Recently there has been borne in upon me other aspects of their conditions, as presented by the hon. gentleman who has just taken his seat. I do not know whether the experience of other hon. members is the same as mine, but frequently some young girl whom perhaps I know personally from my own community calls upon me for assistance in this respect. I certainly know that my colleague the hon. member for Victoria-Carleton (Mr. Hatfield) is called upon every week to go out and find a boarding place for some young girl who has come to the city to take war work, and he is often driven to his wit's end to accomplish that which he desires to do. I have had the same experience of being appealed to, but fortunately I have had the cooperation of a good staff, which has, to a large extent, relieved me of responsibility.

There is a distinct governmental responsibility in this matter. The government has centralized war services in Ottawa, and when it does that it must assume responsibility for the housing of these young girls, and not leave the responsibility to the community. The government may say: "That is all very well, but the city of Ottawa is reaping some benefit from having these government employees here." That just begs the question. We are inviting these young people to come to Ottawa to help carry on the national war effort, and we are centralizing all these war services in this city. But we do not do a thing to provide decent accommodation for these employees, especially for these young girls, many of whom are away from home for the first time. The same problem with respect to war workers moving from one state to another has arisen in the United States. I recall reading last winter an article in the Atlantic Monthly which put the case very fairly for the municipalities, saying that since the government had created the condition, the government must assume the responsibility, not only for the housing of these people but for sanitary services, for school services, and for their hospitalization if these services became beyond the capacity of the local community.

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We ask these people to come to Ottawa. They come, many of them not knowing what the situation is here. When they get here they find themselves at the mercy of a lot of people who make their living by this means- and I am casting no aspersions on the landlords or landladies of Ottawa because I do not know enough about the circumstances. But I do know that there is a responsibility on the government to deal with this problem.

I do not think the letter of the Prime Minister's secretary to the municipal officials is satisfactory. I think the government has to grapple with this problem, and the sooner it grapples with it, the better. I make this concrete suggestion. I ask the government to set up a representative committee of civil servants to meet with the council of the city of Ottawa with a view to coming to a conclusion as to what shall be done. Let there be cooperation on both sides.

I think the suggestion of a women's hostel is perhaps the most satisfactory suggestion that [DOT]can be made. Of this I am certain, that something must be done to relieve the shortage of accommodation. The government must deal with the situation, and my suggestion is that they appoint a committee to meet with the city council and grapple with the situation with a view to building a hostel. The government can build offices on Wellington street and furnish them at the rate of $500 a room, as we have heard has been done. I have heard of a man wanting to move in his own mahogany furniture, but that was stopped as likely to give rise to great scandal. Some man was furnishing his room with an $800 carpet, but in that case the government was not paying for the carpet but the man himself.

To allow these girls just to look after themselves is not good enough. Let us deal with the situation with humanity, even if we are at war. I do not want it to be thought that the socialist party has any monopoly in the consideration of the humanitarian aspects of this problem. Other people are thinking about it too. The government can put up two buildings at great expense on Cartier square to house the navy. I am not critical of that, but they are just temporary buildings to be torn down after the war. Is not the welfare of these young girls who are brought to Ottawa a matter of paramount importance to us all and to the future welfare of this nation? Then let the government set up a committee right away and get in touch with the city council with a view to building hostels and providing other necessary services too. They will be doing a good job for which they will be acclaimed, I believe, by the people of Canada.

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LIB

James Lorimer Ilsley (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ILSLEY:

I will see that that suggestion is given most respectful and serious consideration. It is not primarily my responsibility; I am not the minister, to see to the housing of civil servants, but naturally I take an interest in the matter. Although I do not know too much about it I have some idea of what the situation has been, and I think the appointment of a committee or board or commission is a good idea. I believe that will have to be done. I think the composition of that board, its representative nature, will have to be given serious consideration, because the operation by the government of a girls' hostel will be a difficult and responsible task. I know that when the question was discussed last fall as to whether a hostel should not be built then to accommodate five or six hundred girls, the very suggestion almost was getting us into trouble because this interest and that interest were starting out to insist that they must have representation on any board that had charge of an enterpise of that kind. So far as the time to do this is concerned, we should pursue the same rule that we try to observe with our war effort generally; that is, that so long as persons coming here can find accommodation in the houses which are available at the present time, they should do so, even at some considerable inconvenience. If anyone thinks the people of this country in the next two or three years are going to escape inconvenience in housing, he is entirely wrong.

The construction programme of the government this year for military purposes, I am told is larger-I was going, to say twice as large, but I may be wrong in my proportions -than in any previous year. That may be surprising to members of this committee, but that is what I was told by my colleague the Minister of Munitions and Supply the other day. There is going to be the most terrific scramble for materials for housing in all parts of Canada, and we must keep it down to the very minimum.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

Well, the same crowd gave priority for a beer warehouse.

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LIB

James Lorimer Ilsley (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ILSLEY:

All right, now. Every hon. member will be able to think of something for which he would not have given a permit if he had been director of construction. Certainly anyone is able to do that. The controller of construction is in the Department of Munitions and Supply. He has a very difficult task to perform, and, no doubt, is discharging it as best he can. He has certain rules applicable to residential construction, certain rules applicable to industrial construction, and so forth. He has kept construction down much better than private construction would have

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been restrained had there been no control. There must be rigid and severe control over construction, which will entail a considerable amount of inconvenience. Of course, that inconvenience cannot pass a certain stage. All I want hon. members to understand is that there is likely to be some, and that the government is keeping an eye on that situation and will give it serious consideration. My understanding-and here I may simply be provoking controversy, for I do not know very much about the matter-is that the situation in Ottawa eases in the spring and becomes a little harder in the fall, because in the spring people move out to various country cottages in the vicinity; and I do not think there will be an impossible situation or a very inconvenient situation during the summer and early fall months.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

That possibility is going to be wiped out on account of the gasoline restrictions.

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An hon. MEMBER:

What about next fall?

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LIB

James Lorimer Ilsley (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ILSLEY:

I understand that; the

obvious answer is that we should be thinking of the situation next fall, and I may say that we are thinking of it. The suggestion of a board or a commission is a very good one.

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NAT

George Black

National Government

Mr. BLACK (Yukon):

As regards these temporary buildings which are being erected in Ottawa: Canada is growing; the public service of Canada is growing; accommodation is needed to house government employees. Canada has now been at war for nearly three years, and there has been plenty of opportunity and time to build a few more permanent buildings. I believe the government would have been better advised to construct a few permanent buildings, instead of temporary buildings, at a great expense, which will have to be destroyed after the war. Take the Lord Elgin hotel: it was built inside a year. There is no reason why the government cannot erect permanent office buildings right here in the city. They will be available for all time to come, and the expense in the long run will be less than the cost of putting up these mushroom buildings and afterwards tearing them down.

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LIB
IND

Joseph Sasseville Roy

Independent

Mr. ROY (Translation):

Mr. Chairman, in reply to certain remarks made earlier, I believe, by the hon. member for Davenport (Mr. MacNicol), the Minister of Fisheries (Mr. Michaud) gave us the trade history of that delicious seafood known as the lobster. This

statement interested me very much, although there remain a great many things to be said on the subject, for my constituency and more particularly the Magdalen islands produce a great deal of lobster, in fact, a large percentage of our entire Canadian output.

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LIB

Thomas Vien (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

I wish to remind the hon. member that we are now considering the auditor general's report. No one has objected to the hon. member's remarks, but it is incumbent upon me to direct the debate according to the rules of the house. I merely wish to draw the hon. member's attention to the item now under consideration, and to say that I do not believe there is a sufficiently close connection between it and the situation with regard to fisheries in Gaspe or the lower St. Lawrence, to warrant the latter's discussion.

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IND

Joseph Sasseville Roy

Independent

Mr. ROY:

Begging your pardon, Mr. Chairman, I was under the impression that the S3,000 item which I notice here had brought about, earlier in the day, a discussion on this subject, and the remarks I have to make are directly related to the state of war.

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LIB

Thomas Vien (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

If I am not mistaken, the hon. Minister of Fisheries' remarks were intended to correct an unfair criticism of the auditor general's report. It had been alleged that in his report, the auditor general might have been more explicit with regard to the expenditures incurred by the fisheries department. The minister then explained the scope of the auditor general's report with regard to fisheries. Any remarks made in this connection must be directly related to the report under consideration.

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June 4, 1942