Right Hon. C. D. HOWE (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply):
Mr. Speaker, I had prepared a statement on this subject. Perhaps if I read it I shall have answered the hon. member's question.
When Avar workers' houses were being built by Wartime Housing Limited during 1941 and 1942 it was considered desirable to develop community centres in the larger projects. The tenants of these houses generally were engaged in the same war industry, and in many instances recreational facilities were not available. It was felt that community activities would increase morale, and reduce absenteeism. Experience in the operations of some thirty-three of such community centres proved the wisdom of this course of action.
Circumstances have changed since then. The tenants of the larger wartime housing projects are no longer working in single industries. Ever since repatriation commenced, imcancies in the war workers' houses have been filled exclusively by veterans. It is found that in some community centres a relatively small percentage of the people living in wartime housing units are taking advantage of the facilities. It is also found that the community centres are servicing not only a portion of the tenants of war workers' houses, but also other people who live in private houses within the same district.
The cost of operating community centres amounts to approximately $150,000 per annum, or between nine and ten dollars per housing unit in the municipalities in which there are community centres.
This field of social service work is not one for the dominion, and moneys spent for this purpose may well be questioned. A start must be made in finding a more suitable, and more permanent, form of management for these community centres. We will be discussing the situation with the municipalities involved, in an attempt to find a mutually satisfactory method wherebv the dominion may withdraw from this field. We hope it will not be necessary to cl-ose these community centres, because in many localities they are providing a valuable service. I cannot suggest
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a standard method for working out a mutually acceptable arrangement with the municipalities. In some cases the community centres are on land owned by the dominion. In other cases the land is owned by the municipality. In other cases the operation of the community centre is subject to an existing agreement with the municipalities or other parties. The municipalities can be assured, however, that every effort will be made to find a solution if it is believed that the continued operation of the community centre is desirable.
I may say that the information which was broadcast through a number of communities that the community centres are to be sold is entirely unauthorized. That information was sent out by an employee of Wartime Housing without the knowledge either of his senior officers or of myself. There has been no discussion at any time which would indicate a policy leading to the closing of these centres.
Subtopic: COMMUNITY CENTRES ESTABLISHED UNDER WARTIME CONDITIONS