Speaking seriously, I want to tell my hon. friend that it would not be proper to start working on the applications until the bill passed this house. The bill has not the authority of law until it receives royal assent, and as soon as it receives royal assent we shall start working on the applications. We will have royal assent as soon as the house concludes its business. If hon. members are ready to co-operate we shall have royal assent tomorrow.
Mr. Chairman, I sense the urgency of trying to resolve the estimates and the desire of hon. members to get home as soon as possible, but I wish to take advantage of this opportunity when the estimates of the Minister of Resources and Development are before the committee to refer again to the need for an all-weather year-round highway linking the east and the west through the Yellowhead pass in the Canadian rockies. I spoke on this matter in some detail four years ago, and my remarks will be found at pages 2037-38 of Hansard of 1949. I shall not take the time of the committee at the moment to repeat what I said at that time.
In my remarks in 1949 I pointed out the more practical nature of the Yellowhead route as against a route through the Kicking Horse pass. The Kicking Horse pass route is the approved route of the trans-Canada highway, and it is along the Kicking Horse pass that that highway will lie. On the grounds of more favourable terrain, elevation and weather conditions alone, I still maintain that the central route, the Yellowhead pass route is the best, and that was the route I recommended when I spoke in 1949 on the trans-Canada highway.
Supply-Resources and Development
That national interest demanded the choice of the Yellowhead route at that time, and dictates its completion now, is no less clearly indicated. An editorial in the Edmonton Journal of April 30 of this year reads:
Defence need, of course, is but one reason favouring construction of the Yellowhead highway, and the whole Evergreen highway system linking Edmonton with Vancouver and Winnipeg by a northerly route. They also promise large tourist returns, of both provincial and national interest, and are bound to develop into a highly important east-west commercial artery.
It is difficult not to assume that purely political considerations were the basis of the Alberta government's decision to choose the southern route. Now, that government endorses the more northerly route in the guise of it being a "defence" highway. They are now endorsing the route through the Yellowhead pass that I requested be inquired into in 1949, and they are now asking for that under the guise of it being a defence highway. It is difficult not to assume that political considerations, having in them an element of timeliness, are the basis for this sudden endorsation of a route which not long ago was beyond consideration. That this statement is! not pure assumption I think is clear from a news story which appeared in the Edmonton Journal of April 29, 1953, and I quote:
Deploring Prime Minister St. Laurent's "attitude" toward defence highways and military roads, Hon. Gordon Taylor, Alberta highways minister, asserted Wednesday that the Prime Minister "has shown as much vision as an ostrich with his head in the sand".
"The Prime Minister of Canada and his cabinet colleagues," Mr. Taylor declared, "should get the blinkers off their eyes."
There was more in that news story of the same vein. It is deplorable that an Alberta government minister should make such statements in reference to our illustrious Prime Minister. We have in our Prime Minister one of the world's leading statesmen. There is not a member in the House of Commons who would refer to our Prime Minister in other than terms of high regard and respect. Our Prime Minister serves Canada with great distinction. The Edmonton Journal had this editorial comment to make on Mr. Taylor's statement:
"Only harm can be done by the sort of namecalling in which Alberta's highways minister, Hon. Gordon Taylor, indulged in Wednesday. . . Abusive references to the Prime Minister will do anything but promote federal-provincial co-operation."
I do not think Mr. Taylor need worry about federal co-operation regardless of his vulgar remarks which would not at any time promote the kind of consultative co-operation
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Supply-Resources and Development necessary to decide this highway question. I am quite sure the necessary co-operation will be forthcoming. I do not think the Prime Minister will be deflected in any way from doing what he conceives to be his duty by any name-calling.
As the western provinces, and Alberta particularly, have requested a conference on the whole matter of western highways with a view to defence, I have no doubt whatever that the fullest co-operation will be extended them. In view of the press of business at this time, to suggest a postponement and reappraisal of the matter at a later date is not, I suggest, putting one's head in the sand like an ostrich.
But political considerations are the least important aspect of this matter. Perhaps at this time we can afford a double link through this area of western Canada to the coast. If so, no one will be more heartily in favour of such a program than myself. There is, however, one serious aspect of such a possibility which may invalidate completely the southern route as at present proposed. I shall come to that in a moment.
A vast and important area in terms of population, of growing industrial importance, of rapid increase in known and anticipated economic resources is comprehended in the general area Winnipeg-Saskatoon-Edmonton-Kamloops-Vancouver, all of which the Yel-lowhead route would serve. My position is that the west, and Alberta especially, by the very facts of geography needs the most practical and possibly even a double outlet to the Pacific on industrial, climatic and defence grounds. If only one route is practical, then it should be the Yellowhead route. In that respect I recommended in 1949 that an impartial fact-finding committee be appointed to investigate every aspect of the matter. Certainly highways are a provincial responsibility, but with the federal government paying half the cost it seemed to me that the national interest in the proposed expenditure would warrant the closest attention to choice of the best route.
Today as never before the people of Canada stand to benefit in the most national sense, from a central, western road linking with the trans-Canada highway as at present approved, subject to one qualification. Such a road, built to trans-Canada standards, would tap the growing resources of the west's north and centre, and serve as a peripheral link to that northern complex of communications we are developing or will have to develop soon in connection with the defence of our nation.
The Alaska highway, the Hay River route, the John Hart development, are all part of the actual or potential broad, strategic and industrial network which will supplement our railways and penetrate areas where they would be uneconomic or impractical. No one can predict the future, but we can plan for it in the light of present day knowledge. We are today at a stage in our industrial, our economic, our national development when we must keep pace with that development or take the serious economic and social conse-quencies. I would be remiss, indeed, if I did not again emphasize my considered opinion, that this highway development, which I have long advocated as being essential, is part and parcel of that long-range high level of employment and investment which it is the policy of this party to maintain.
And now for the qualification I mentioned. I have referred to the examination of the present route of the trans-Canada highway through the mountains, and at this time 1 shall refer to this matter only briefly. There is, it appears to me, some danger that the present approved trans-Canada route by way of the Big Bend may, in the not too distant future, conflict with the possible development of the Columbia river basin as a major source of vital hydroelectric power. 1 would urge that in the very near future the broadest possible study be given this possibility. It could mean the complete abandonment of the trans-Canada highway over a vast territory-a costly matter indeed, once construction is undertaken.
There was tabled in the house on April 27 correspondence exchanged between the Prime Minister and the premier of Alberta. The Prime Minister's letter to the premier of Alberta dated April 18 says, in its last paragraph:
I will communicate with you further after this session of parliament has been prorogued and endeavour to set a date which will be mutually satisfactory.
To me, the Prime Minister meant in that paragraph that he would endeavour to set a date that would be satisfactory to those elected representatives of the prairie west and British Columbia so they could come down here to discuss the question of further highways in the west. I do sincerely hope that from this consultative and co-operative conference there will be planned the building of a highway to serve Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton and on through the Yellowhead pass to Kamloops, thence to the Pacific coast.
Mr. Chairman, I have spoken to the minister on a number of occasions this session in the hope that he might give heed to some of the views put forward by members
of the opposition, and that he and his department might make some changes in their present housing policy which, no matter what the minister may say about it, and no matter how good he thinks it is, adds up to simply this, that it is not getting the houses built which we need to house the people of this country.
The building industry states it can build 125,000 houses in a year. Last year we built 73,000. As I have said to the minister on several occasions, last year alone we built 33,500 fewer houses than were needed to keep pace with new family formations and obsolescence, let alone trying to cut into the half million housing backlog which we had as of January 1 this year.
But the minister just does not seem to want to pay any attention. He seems to think the present housing policy is quite satisfactory; that 73,000 houses a year is good enough; and the fact that the building industry can build 125,000 houses a year is quite unimportant. He does not seem impressed by the fact that we have a housing backlog of half a million houses; no, that does not seem to matter to him at all. So we just go merrily on our way with far too few houses, paying no attention whatever to the housing needs of the Canadian people.
I think if the minister would use the same good judgment in the housing field that he uses on the baseball field our housing needs would be looked after very quickly, because on the baseball field, as a very efficient catcher, he is most efficient at blocking off a runner who is trying to get to home base. However, unfortunately he tries to do exactly the same thing in the housing field. He seems to think he is playing the same game, with the result that he blocks off with equal efficiency the builders who are striving for that goal of 125,000 houses a year. The minister traps them around second base and says, "No, you just stop there; 73,000 houses is enough; one more move and you've had it."
That is the situation today. I hope the minister may at long last listen to what a great many builders have told me in long hours of serious discussion with them, because I realize I do not know too much about housing; but I am always anxious to learn.
In that respect I am unlike hon. members opposite, because I am willing to learn; I do not think I know it all. Hon. members opposite seem to think that they know it all, and they do not think they need to learn anything. So, as a humble student-
And now, Mr. Chairman, after these rather rude interruptions, perhaps I might proceed. I am going to bring forward not my views but views that have been expressed to me over and over again by men who can build the houses which this country needs, at prices the people can pay, and so end our housing shortage in the very near future-that is, if they are just given the chance to do it.
As I have said before, and as they have said on many occasions, there are three reasons why we are critically short of housing today. First of all there is the shortage of serviced land. This is making it impossible for builders to build the houses they want to build in the locations in which they want to build them. Second there is the matter of the high down payment, which makes it impossible for people of moderate means to buy houses. And, third, there is the high interest rate and the short amortization period which makes it impossible for people of moderate means to carry new houses.
I should like to deal with each of those reasons. First of all there is the matter of the lack of serviced land. This can be overcome only if the municipalities are given adequate sources of revenue from which they can finance the building of schools, roads, water mains, sewers and all the other local improvements that are needed if builders are to come into subdivisions to build houses. If the municipalities will not allow the builders to come in, then naturally the houses will not be built.
On November 24 the Leader of the Opposition made a very sensible suggestion to the government when he said that it should call together a dominion-provincial conference to discuss the possibility of reallocating sources of revenue of municipalities, so they could finance these expenditures which they are called upon to make.
Second, there is the high down payment. That is the greatest obstacle in the way of building a new house, and it would be the easiest one for the government to remove. However, for some reason or other the government simply and steadfastly says No. There is no explanation; it is just plain No. The minimum down payment which a person has to make under N.H.A. housing today is $2,000, and that is 20 per cent on a $10,000 house. Now, Mr. Chairman, people who earn
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Supply-Resources and Development a moderate salary simply cannot get that kind of money together. In order to get together $2,000 you would have to have, as a very minimum, a salary of $5,000 a year, and you would have to earn that for four years running. You would have to be willing to set aside 10 per cent of that amount each year for four years, and that is no mean feat. So anybody earning less than $5,000 a year is virtually excluded from buying a new house.
I have talked to a great many workingmen who have said to me, "I have been able to save $500 or $600 and I can get another $500 or $600 from the credit union to which 1 belong; but I simply cannot find $2,000. I want to have a house of my own, and I feel that on my salary I can carry it, but I simply cannot get together that down payment". They feel that a $1,000 down payment would be reasonable. As a down payment 'on a minimum $10,000 N.H.A. house, that would be 10 per cent.
Again I very strongly urge the minister to give consideration to this matter. I have been urging it for a long time, and I do not know whether there is much use in speaking to him again because he does not seem to be interested. I cannot see any difficulty in the way of the government reducing the down payment to 10 per cent. The United States have done that. As I have told the minister, through their national housing authority, for a $7,000 house the United States requires a down payment of only 5 per cent or $350. As the value of the house increases, the down payment increases on a sliding scale, so that when you arrive at a $10,000 house the down payment is 121 per cent or $1,250. I feel that one flat figure of 10 per cent on all houses of $10,000 or less would make it possible for people with moderate incomes in this country to buy the houses which they desperately want to buy.
The third difficulty is the high interest rate and the short amortization period. Again I would like to cite what has been done in the United States. There they have an interest rate as low as 4 per cent and an amortization period as long as 30 years. I think we all realize that the United States are not fools in the matter of business. They do not give things away; they usually work things out on a pretty businesslike basis, and they have found that kind of down payment and that kind of interest rate and that kind of amortization period are necessary to enable people who need housing most, to buy new houses. Otherwise they would not have made those rates what they are. They have been very successful in the United States in getting houses built for the people who need them
most. I again urge the minister to give this matter very serious consideration.
I do not see any obstacle in the way of the government doing these things, and I see these suggestions as the only way we can overcome the present difficulties and enable the building industry to build the houses they are capable of producing, namely 125,000 houses a year. If we do that, the housing difficulties in Canada will be overcome very soon. If the government persists in its present obsolete and reactionary policy, which makes it easy for a person with a good income to buy a house but impossible for a person with a moderate income, then the housing situation is going to grow worse year after year.
I hope the minister and this government are not going to sit idly by and watch a critical situation continue to deteriorate right before their eyes.
I am sure all of my electors are glad and would wish me to say that we are all happy that we have such an energetic and powerful young man at the head of this department.
I want to say that he began construction of the trans-Canada highway from Ottawa east in the county of Russell, to Montreal. May I ask the minister whether it is possible to get an understanding with the province of Ontario in order to have the road widened. It should be double its present width. There is much traffic to and from the capital city and we hope that will continue, and that it will be possible to have the road wider than it is now.
Now, Mr. Chairman, I would like to refer to a statement made by the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar on Tuesday, April 8, 1953, which appears at page 4479 of Hansard. At that time he complained about a house that was built for his son-in-law by the Campeau Construction Company. He went so far as to say that the firm did jerry-building. Mr. Chairman, I do not think this parliament should be used as a place to make statements that cannot be supported. If it were done by someone outside of this house they would be brought to court. Members should not take advantage of their position to make such accusations when the people involved cannot answer back. Such an accusation could bring the downfall of this firm. This firm of intelligent people, outstanding builders, have built many hundreds of homes which are so urgently needed.
More than eight excellent building companies have built thousands of homes in my riding, and I am sure thanks are due to the minister and to Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation who provided the opportunity for those contractors to build those homes in my riding of Russell. I am very proud of my riding, which is growing by some 3,000 people a year. Thousands of houses have been provided in that district under the administration of Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, by Campeau Construction. The house mentioned by the hon. member was sold to his son-in-law. He made some complaint to the contractor, and immediately a man was sent over to check the drainage system. He found that the work had been done properly but the owner was a little difficult to deal with. He complained that dampness persisted, and he hired another contractor to do some work. On April 17, 1953, he presented a bill for $244.33 to Mr. Campeau. There was a little discussion between the owner and Mr. Campeau, and the latter claimed that the bill was too high for the amount of work done but finally Mr. Campeau paid it.
The hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar was invited by the contractor to visit and check personally all of the different dwellings constructed by the contractor. I also invited the hon. member to go with me in my car to make such a visit. I am of the opinion that he will not be able to find one house which is not built according to regulations. For the most part he will find that the company has done excellent work. I do not believe these accusations were warranted, and it sounds to me as though they were made for political purposes to criticize private enterprise. These are criticisms pf people who are building homes which our citizens need so desperately.
Naturally, when you build thousands of homes people who know something about construction and about the buying and selling of houses cannot expect that there will not be a few houses with imperfections. The same thing applies in so far as the manufacture of automobiles, refrigerators and other types of machines is concerned. These manufacturers employ experts to inspect these machines, but there are always some that have to be repaired or some which have to have parts replaced. I know this is so because I sell a lot of these machines. Even with the best companies there is always something that happens to a truck, a tractor, a refrigerator or a machine of that sort which we have to check up. Certainly during the time Mr. Campeau has been building houses, some of the houses are bound to have slight deficiencies that need correction.
I shall ask the minister to take note of what I said a few years ago about the Nation
Supply-Resources and Development river. I know the federal government is anxious to do all it can to conserve our forest and water resources. The Ontario government has made a fine survey of this river, and I think that government will be happy to co-operate in any plan of conservation. Such a plan would not cost millions of dollars, but only a reasonable amount. Two or three dams would have to be built. The water of the Nation river passes through the Larose forest in which over 7 million trees have been planted by way of reforestation. At the same time this river passes through 250 acres of reforestation in which I have planted over 300,000 trees.
If such a conservation program were adopted it would serve at least 11 municipalities, and give the opportunity for reforestation. It would conserve the water and help the farmers to have better crops. Every town through which the Nation river passes would be benefited by the lessening of the flood damage every spring.
Mr. Chairman, before proceeding with my brief remarks I must congratulate you on acting as temporary chairman of the committee. You occupy the chair with dignity and graciousness, and I know your judgments will be as wise as those of Solomon. Furthermore, Mr. Chairman, I am sure your electors will be heartened to know that you have been given some recognition of your ability to do more than simply work as a member of parliament. I presume this is an indication that, at the next session of parliament, your advancement will continue.
I intended to speak on the item for the administration of the trans-Canada highway, but since the hon. member for Edmonton East had something to say about the trans-Canada highway, and since I am speaking for a large number of people who are particularly concerned with the trans-Canada highway in the eastern portion of British Columbia, I am going to follow him now.
All of us living along the banks of the Columbia river in British Columbia between Rev'elstoke and the international boundary belong to what is now generally known as the community of the Columbia. As residents of the community of the Columbia, we have interests in common. We are interested in the development of the region, the development of transportation, and particularly in
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Supply-Resources and Development recent years in the development and improvement of our highways. On that account all the people in the area are particularly interested in the rapid development and improvement in that section of the trans-Canada highway from Revelstoke east to the Alberta border. To that end, Mr. Chairman, we in this area co-operate on all those problems. We have joint meetings of the people from the various communities so we can face this problem with a common front, whether we are dealing with the provincial or federal governments.
Personally, I have lived on the shores of the Columbia river for nearly 50 years. I know the problems of the district very well.
I know the area through which the present Big Bend highway goes. I know the Rogers pass route very well. I have been through there something over 60 times, so I have some knowledge of the situation and have every confidence in advancing the ideas 'of the organizations that have asked me to speak this evening.
The Big Bend highway was first undertaken by the provincial government. This work was proceeded with in a very leisurely manner, so not much progress was made. During the depression the federal department of the interior took over the construction of the Big Bend highway between Revelstoke and Golden, and completed the subgrade in 1944. Once that section was gravelled so traffic could go over the highway, the tourist traffic increased very rapidly. The gravel surface quickly developed holes and the washboard condition became a severe problem every summer.
With the development of the tourist traffic the maintenance of the road became a greater problem. After a rise in the tourist traffic to a certain height, shall I say, it then began to drop off because tourists from the United States coming through the national parks area would return to the United States and inform their friends of the poor condition of the road. Therefore the people of the area surrounding Revelstoke in the community of the Columbia pressed the coalition government to pave the highway between Revelstoke and Golden. They were led to believe that the work was going to be done. Year after year nothing was done and the loss of tourist traffic has continued up to this tinie.
Then we had an agreement with the federal government and British Columbia with respect to the building of the trans-Canada highway. Hopes rose high again that the road between Revelstoke and Golden
would be designated as a section of the trans-Canada highway, which it finally was. We thought the paving would soon be undertaken by the provincial government with the financial assistance of the federal government, but nothing was done. Then in June of last year we had an election in British Columbia, and hopes rose to new heights. The slogan in the area was that the Big Bend highway would be paved in 1953. Those hopes have begun to fade already. Because of the fading of these hopes the people of Revelstoke, and the Revelstoke chamber of commerce particularly, began to look in other directions. Recently they have made an appeal to the federal government in this connection.
First of all, I want to be as brief as possible. I shall restrain myself with great difficulty on several other items in order that I may use all the time I think I can ethically use at this stage of the estimates on this subject. I want to quote first of all from the Revelstoke Review of Thursday, April 30, 1953, an article entitled "Passing the Buck to Ottawa". It reads as follows:
It's getting to be monotonous. Every time someone suggests the need of new road construction, the minister of public works passes the buck to Ottawa. Seeking aid for alleged military highways, all-weather roads, etc., from Ottawa is occupying a great deal of the minister's time. Now, he's decided that the Tofino road on Vancouver island should be aided by Ottawa. Here is a recent news despatch:
"We are very much impressed by the need for the Tofino road", Hon. P. A. Gaglardi, minister of public works, told the dinner meeting arranged by the Alberni board of trade.
"The minister regarded the road as desirable from both the tourist and industrial standpoint.
"He did not, however, consider its construction a provincial responsibility alone, but one to which the federal government should contribute."
The money required to build the roads to which Mr. Gaglardi thinks Ottawa should contribute would complete the trans-Canada highway, to which Ottawa actually is committed, long before the 1956 deadline. There are no "ifs" and "buts" about Ottawa's willingness to do its share in regard to the trans-Canada highway, but it must get kind of tiresome for the federal government to learn almost every other day that there are other projects in British Columbia to which it should contribute.
"First things first", Mr. Gaglardi! The trans-Canada highway definitely should have priority on all federal funds for highway purposes.
The people I represent and the people in Revelstoke who are interested in this question agree with that sentiment, that the first thing to be done in British Columbia is to finish the trans-Canada highway. When we get that finished it will then be possible to ask for federal assistance for other roads; but that is our first objective.
Quite recently I asked for an order for return at the request of my friends in the
Revelstoke district. I want to read a few letters from that return in order to illustrate the fact that-and I give the federal government credit for it-this government is anxious to proceed with the paving of this section of the highway, to carry on and get that part of the work completed, and also to indicate that the work is still being stalled by the present provincial government of British Columbia. When I place these letters on the record I am sure it will be clear to everyone that we got along about as fast on the Big Bend section of the trans-Canada highway this year as we have during the last five years.
The first letter I want to read is one to Hon. E. C. Carson dated February 1, 1951. The matter was being considered then. It is now getting on in 1953. The letter is addressed to the Hon. E. C. Carson, minister, department of public works, Victoria, B.C. I may say that the death of Mr. Carson is something that we greatly regret in British Columbia, regardless of our party politics. Mr. Carson was a gentleman. He spent his whole life in developing a splendid farm and he left a great record behind him as minister of public works. Those sentiments would be expressed by anyone who knew Mr. Carson. The letter reads as follows:
Dear Mr. Carson:
Your letter of November 29 in regard to the situation that would arise on the Big Bend section of the trans-Canada highway if a large storage dam were built on the Columbia river near Mica creek, has been given consideration, and the points raised in it have been referred to General A. G. L. McNaughton, chairman of the Canadian section of the international joint commission, and to the Honourable L. B. Pearson, Secretary of State for External Affairs.
General McNaughton has advised that the terms of reference in regard to the Columbia river investigations authorize the commission to estimate the costs of the water resources development, including indemnification for damage to public and private property and the costs of any remedial works. The latter, in his opinion, include the relocation of a road made necessary by the construction of a power project and the investigation of alternate routes which may be necessary if a storage dam is built.
In a letter dated January 19, the Secretary of State for External Affairs confirms that the international joint commission is agreeable to adopting the interpretation proposed by General McNaughton.
Under these circumstances it would appear in order for your department to investigate alternate routes to the extent it feels necessary at this time, keeping a record of such expenditures so that they may be a charge against the "storage authority".
In order that the construction of the trans-Canada highway through this section of British Columbia may not be unduly delayed-
It will be noted that at that time in 1951 the minister was anxious that the work be not delayed.
Resources and Development -I assume you will wish to undertake the necessary surveys and investigations in the coming season. As you know, the feasibility of the dam site will not be definitely determined until investigations are completed next summer, and the results of these may considerably modify the whole problem.
Robert H. Winters.
To that letter Mr. Carson replied on March 2, 1951, as follows:
Dear Mr. Winters:
I have for acknowledgment your further letter under date of February 1 having to do with the possibility of storage facilities being provided on what is presently known as the Big Bend section of the trans-Canada highway in British Columbia.
I appreciate very much the arrangements you have made with respect to possible necessary indemnification and also your advice that proper investigations of alternate routes and relocations could be chargeable to the storage authorities.
As per your letter, we will get on as quickly as possible with the preliminary investigations and keep you advised as to our progress in this matter.
Again, very many thanks for your attention and with kind regards.