Mr. STEWART (Winnipeg North):
wish to talk about wartime housing for a few minutes. I do not like Wartime Housing Corporation or what it has done. It has been most dictatorial and dogmatic in its approach to the municipalities. I can speak with some authority in respect of one municipality and that is the city of Winnipeg. A tremendous storm gathered at the idea of these potential slums being built in Winnipeg and objections were made not only to the corporation but, I am informed, even to the minister; yet nothing came of them. These dwellings were put up, some in my constituency and some in other constituencies in the city of Winnipeg. By and large they are a waste of money. In the Elmwood district we are spending $300 thousand on wartime housing, and these homes, as I said, are potential slums. Men are coming
back from the war and they will go into these houses. They will not regard them as homes but merely as places of shelter which they will leave as rapidly as possible. There are no basements in these dwellings. Representations were made to the corporation that basements are needed in Winnipeg. We have been told by Wartime Housing that dwellings no longer have basements. There are none in the modern type of building, but I would point out that buildings of that type cost $10,000 and not $3,000. The fact that they have no ' basements is serious. In the first place, those who will occupy these houses will be young couples. They will have children, and usually babies play on the floor. The floors in these houses will be appreciably colder than the area two or three feet further up. Therefore the children will be subject to chills and colds and possibly pneumonia.
When we objected we were told that the specifications were the same all across Canada.
I wrote a letter on July 2 to the minister in which I said that the specifications in Winnipeg are not the same as for Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, and other areas, so that apparently there is no uniformity of design by Wartime Housing Limited. I received from the department the answer that "the statement that the houses being constructed in Winnipeg differ from those being built in Moose Jaw, Saskatoon and other points is not according to fact." In other words, they denied what I had stated. "I am assured by the officials of Wartime Housing," the letter said, "that they are exactly the same as those built in other municipalities in the west. The fact of the matter is that the houses are uniform, and the by-laws and regulations of the various municipalities differ widely. Wartime Housing units are being built to conform to a national building code, and the only deviation from the code is where we have had to substitute materials which are unobtainable or in short supply." I asked the department a question which was answered on page 607 of Hansard. It seems to me that there must be a good deal of confusion in the department in view, of the conflicting answers given. I suppose that the Minister of Reconstruction sometimes answers half a question and the Minister of Munitions the other half, because they do not tally. I asked the question:
Are building specifications for these houses the same in each of the cities mentioned?
The answer was a categorical and very short no. I should like to know what the situation is. I see no reason why basements
Demobilization-Munitions and Supply
could not -have been built in these homes. The digging of the basements would not have used materials which were necessary or vital to the war effort. They could have been excavated by a couple of bull-dozers in a week, and the addition of basements would have given the occupants a sense of permanency which they will never have. We are told that these are only temporary structures. Well, it is a rather expensive undertaking if these are only temporary structures, for we are spending $30 million this year on such buildings. But the committee knows that there is nothing temporary about them. They are built and they will stay there. In the same area there w'ere homes built allegedly on a temporary basis after the last war and they are still there. They were built without basements, and the people have had to excavate basements for themselves in the course of the years. After the houses have been constructed it is ten times as difficult to dig a basement. Worse than that, the specifications call for insulation which is not at all like those of normal houses in Winnipeg. There are no doors on the cupboards, and that is a cheap and unnecessary sort of economy. There are wooden eavestroughs. Perhaps that may be necessary in time of war when metal and zinc were short, but I hope that wooden eavestroughs are not going to continue. There is no power wiring. The expenditure of another $30 per building would have put power wiring in these houses. When you have no power wiring you have this result. A woman would have seen this; most men would pass it up. In the summer time you have temperatures of eighty or ninety degrees in the shade. If you want hot water for a bath you have to put on the kitchen range or the stove; that is the only possible way you can get hot water in these houses. Because we are chiseling to the extent of $30 on power wiring, we are putting people to all sorts of inconvenience and discomfort.
What is more, these houses do not meet the specifications laid down by the by-laws of the city of Winnipeg and, heaven knows, they are not too strict as things are now. But wartime houses come nowhere near the by-laws. Objection has been taken to that fact, but we were told we have to get houses and the only way we can get them is to take this offer of Wartime Housing. The city council said: "We cannot argue; we have to take what we can get." For the expenditure of another twenty-five per cent these houses could have been made permanent structures. I think it is a very poor form of economy indeed to build such homes. As it is, I am certain that they
are going to descend into hovels and eventually into slums. The objection that has been riised to the houses in the particular areas in which they are built has been raised by working-class people who do not object to low-rental housing and who do not object to cheap dwellings. After all, their own boys and girls are going to settle in these homes. In this community as in other communities we find that through the years the people have been industrious and frugal. They have saved a little money; they have managed to establish an equity in Canada. They have bought their own homes. Now they find, cheek by jowl with houses which they have built, these wartime structures which everybody is convinced will not last. I know soldiers who have applied for them. They have done so for one purpose only, and that is to get shelter for themselves and their families, and then to get out of them just as fast as they can. They are houses in which the tenants are going to take no pride at all. When people take no pride in their homes we know what happens.
There is another point on which I should like an answer from the minister to-night. I brought it up before, but he was not here at that time; perhaps he missed it. Wartime Housing put out a long questionnaire. There are many questions on the form. There are two questions which are entirely unnecessary, and I should like to see them knocked out if it has not been done by now. One question is: "What is your nationality?" The other question is: "What is your religion?" The men wrho are getting these houses are the men who fought for Canada. They fought overseas as Canadians. They were not Jews or Gentiles, Catholics or Protestants, believers or unbelievers; they were Canadians, fighting for Canada. They died for Canada in the same way and were buried in a common grave, united at last in the common bond of death. I think it is atrocious that any government department should have the audacity to put these questions on any form such as that which Canadian soldiers have to answer. I only hope that the minister to-night will tell this committee that these two vicious and iniquitous questions will be knocked out of the questionnaire.