February 2, 1939 (18th Parliament, 4th Session)


Hughes Cleaver



House Construction in Canada 1921-1930 Inclusive
1921 $ 76,655,000
1922 104,202,000
1923 97,645,000
1924 91,225,000
1925 96,490,000
1926 109,562,000
1927 124,940,000
1928 139,166,000
1929 128,901,000
1930 93,292,000
Total $1,062,078,000
From these figures it will be seen that the yearly average of house-building during this period was $106,207,800. These figures I submit establish conclusively the fact that our normal quota of house-building in order to keep up with our normal demands should fee rather better than $100,000,000 worth annually.
Coming to the period of the depression and succeeding years we have the following figures for 1931 to 1938:
1931 $ 81,684,000
1932 28,893,000
1933 23,930,000
1934 30,588,000
1935 36,409,000
1936 42,858,000
1937 56,207,000
1938 55,025,000
Total $355,594,000
Yearly average, $44,449,000.
It is therefore perfectly obvious that during the last eight years we have been building less than half our normal housing requirements.

The present house shortage is not as apparent as it would be under normal conditions, on account of unemployed people being forced to live under very crowded conditions. At the time this special committee sat to investigate the housing problem we had over 11,000 people living in one room per family. Just imagine, one room per family to live in, eat in and sleep in. Other thousands of our people were doubled up two and three families in a house. Figures as to this condition for all Canada are not available, but the city of Toronto took a census, and in that city alone it was found that over 8,500 families were living two and three families to a house. People do not voluntarily live under such conditions and just as soon as men regain employment they will demand homes of their own, and we shall not have the houses for them.
I need not draw attention to the fact that such crowded living conditions are not conducive to good health, nor are they conducive to good citizenship.
Turning again to the report of the committee we find figures as to infant mortality. For 1933 the infant mortality rate for the entire city of Toronto was 6-34 per cent of the births occurring there in that year. In comparison with that figure take one of the crowded areas of the city, the Moss Park division of ward 2, where the infant mortality rate was double the rate for the entire city. And this high mortality rate caused by overcrowding is not confined to infants; it applies to adults as well. Figures for Canada apparently were not available, but the committee in its report gave the figures for the city of Glasgow. In Glasgow where families were living under crowded conditions, one family to a room, the death rate was 2-59 per cent, whereas when families were living under normal conditions for that city of four rooms to a family the rate was only 1-08 per cent, or less than half. I shall not weary the house with crime figures, other than to say that in the crowded areas the crime percentages are simply appalling, over the entire field of crime, from murder down to juvenile delinquency.
Now when we required the houses and when we were spending $60,000,000 annually to maintain the building trades in idleness it seemed to me nothing short of sheer folly to do nothing about it. In 1936 I felt that something should be done, that we should at least spend some of the $60,000,000, that we were spending to maintain builders in idleness, to stimulate the building industry and put the men to work. I so intimated in 1936, but

The Address-Mr. Cleaver
received very little support at Ottawa. So I went back to Burlington, my home town, and discussed the matter with our municipal council. Burlington is at the head of lake Ontario, and has about 3,500 inhabitants. Burlington decided to try a modest scheme of bonusing house building. Like every urban municipality in Canada Burlington had hundreds of vacant lots to which the municipality had obtained title through tax sales. Some of the lots had been worth $600 to $800 each in normal times, but we decided to give them away for $50 to anyone who would build a house of specified value within one year. As a result of this plan nineteen new houses were built in Burlington in 1937. During the preceding six years only four houses had been built in the town, an average of less than one a year. Hon. members can thus see what we were able to do by just a little bit of stimulus or bonus to the house building trade.
Eighty per cent of the cost of every house of moderate price is labour, direct or indirect. This figure was definitely ascertained and reported on by the committee in its 1935 report. The direct labour is that employed where the house is built; the indirect labour is that employed in the manufacture and fabrication of building materials to the point where they can be used in construction. I refer to the labour employed in the manufacture of bricks, lumber, flooring, sash and doors, trim, plaster, hardware, plumbing supplies and the like. Hon. members will see that this little experiment of ours meant $72,000 worth of new payroll expended somewhere in Canada. Or, expressed in human terms, we put ninety men to work -in profitable employment at $800 a year, and I take that figure because that is the average sum paid to wage earners employed in the building trades, according to the bureau of statistics.
Let us look now at the tax results in Burlington. We not only took men off the relief rolls and consequently reduced our relief expenditures, making a saving to the taxpayers in that regard, but in addition Burlington is receiving every year about $2,499 in new tax money from the houses which were built in 1937. It is true that we had to write off between four and five thousand dollars of tax arrears on the vacant lots which we gave away in 1937 but who will say it was not good business? And this reduction in taxation, this improvement in conditions in a municipality, leads to still further building. In 1938 we went further still; in our little town we had twenty-four new houses built, and right now, in midwinter, there are six houses under construction, with twelve further
sales completed ready for construction to commence in the spring.
I have given our experience in Burlington to show what can be done, and now I should like to discuss the matter from a national standpoint. If we could increase house building in Canada even to our normal requirements, without overtaking any of the eighty thousand houses we are behind, it would mean an annual increase of $50,000,000 a year. Expressed in wage rolls it would mean an annual increase of $40,000,000, and expressed in human terms it would mean fifty thousand men taken off relief and put to profitable employment at $800 a year. I should like to place on record also at this time the all-inclusive figures of the construction trade. Up to this moment I have been dealing simply with housing construction. Taking the same ten year period from 1921 to 1930, the figures are as follows:
1921 $ 240,133,000
1922 331,843,000
1923 314,254,000
1924 276,261,000
1925 297,973,000
1926 372,948,000
1927 418,952,000
1928 472,033,000
1929 576,652,000
1930 457,000,000
Total $3,758,049,000
The yearly all-over average on construction work in Canada during that period was $375,-
804,000. Again taking the eight year period of the depression and the years following, that is, from 1931 to 1938, the figures are as follows:
1931 $ 315,482,000
1932 132,872,000
1933 97,290,uU0
1934..- 125,812,000
1935 160,305,000
1936 162,588,000
1937 224,057,000
1938 188,277,000
Total $1,406,683,000
During that period the yearly average was only $175,835,000. In other words from these figures it is clear that over the whole construction field we are down about two billion dollars annually. If all the construction trades could be brought back simply to normal, without catching up on the slack at all, we would add 125,000 men to our employment lists and would take that many men off the relief rolls. That figure is made up in this way: $50,000,000 worth of additional house building, with an eighty per cent labour content, would mean 50,000 men put to work. Then $150,000,000 of additional industrial, business and engineering construction work, with a forty per cent labour content, would put 75,000 men to work, or a grand total of
125,000 men.
The Address-Mr. Cleaver

This government has gone perhaps as far as it should at present to stimulate personal endeavour in industry. (1) The government has taken off the eight per cent sales tax on all building material. (2) It has granted a tax subsidy with respect to all new homes costing $4,000 or less, built in municipalities which have qualified under part 3 of the act by making $50 lots available to builders in reasonable quantities. (3) It has made loans available in almost all communities, to all credit-worthy people who wish to build. (4) It has made two per cent money available as an indirect attack on our slum problem. The rest, Mr. Speaker, I submit is up to us, and just to show how badly we private members of this house have fallen down in our part of the responsibility I want to give the figures of the municipalities which have qualified for the tax subsidy under part 3 of the act. That legislation has been in force now for seven months. Yesterday I received from the Department of Finance a letter in which the figures as to the municipalities which have qualified to date for this tax subsidy were given as follows:
Nova Scotia 4
New Brunswick 1
Quebec 0
Ontario 12
Manitoba 4
Saskatchewan 5
Alberta 5
British Columbia 2
In other words we have a grand total of 33 municipalities out of 4,346 municipalities in Canada. I submit that this constitutes a direct challenge to every member of this house to take off his coat and go to work. It is time, I suggest, that we stop criticizing the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers) for what he has done or has not done, and assume some of the responsibility ourselves. In my riding I have found that better results can be obtained when politics are removed and when prominent Conservatives join with prominent Liberals in these meetings. Councillor Rennie of Burlington, who is president of the Conservative association, deserves a great deal of the credit for what we have been able to do in that town, and I am glad to take this opportunity of acknowledging that fact. He has also gone with me to address meetings throughout the riding in connection with the housing question. My good friend the hon. member for Peel (Mr. Graydon) is joining me at Georgetown at a meeting soon to be held there in order to discuss this matter, and I in turn am quite prepared to go with him to any part of his riding for the same purpose. If the members of this house could only become sufficiently interested to pull their weight in connection

with this problem, what a refreshing thing it would be!
I am firmly convinced that one of the strongest forces retarding recovery in Canada to-day is fear. If all hon. members of this house would call a political truce in discussing our problem of unemployment-

Full View