MATTHEWS, James Ewen

Personal Data

Brandon (Manitoba)
Birth Date
August 17, 1869
Deceased Date
November 24, 1950
insurance agent, journalist, teacher

Parliamentary Career

November 14, 1938 - January 25, 1940
  Brandon (Manitoba)
March 26, 1940 - April 16, 1945
  Brandon (Manitoba)
June 11, 1945 - April 30, 1949
  Brandon (Manitoba)
June 27, 1949 - June 13, 1953
  Brandon (Manitoba)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 4 of 17)

June 18, 1948

Mr. MATTHEWS (Brandon):

A few

minutes ago the minister made reference to the small hospital operated in Brandon by his department. It was a former military hospital, and was then taken over by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is now under the control or the direction of the sanitarium board of Manitoba. I think it is only fair to say on behalf of his officers that that hospital, in the opinion of those who know more about it than I do, was very efficiently operated during the time that it was under the Department of Veterans Affairs, and filled a large place in western Manitoba. I believe the words I have spoken in regard to the minister's department hold equally' true with regard to the sanitarium board. I just want to express my word of appreciation for what has been done by' the staff and the department in that connection.

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June 4, 1948

Mr. MATTHEWS (Brandon):

I was unable to be present during all the discussion on postal matters, and perhaps the point I have in mind has already been dealt with. I wanted to bring to the attention of the Postmaster General one class of employees in the postal service who I think are worthy of the best possible consideration; I refer to the railway mail clerks. They have the hardest of hard work. Their hours are about the worst of any group in the civil service. The

Supply-Post Office

work is often exceedingly dangerous. It is wearing on the nerves, as we all know, and often these employees come to the verge of a complete breakdown. They have day runs, night runs-all kinds of runs except home runs; because their home life is completely broken into. Their facilities for getting meals are most inadequate. They have in their custody registered mail, and that tends to worry them. If something has not been done already for this class of employees, I trust that it will be done. I should also have mentioned that their work is done in a rush, because they have to be ready with the mail at each trainstop; they are on edge all the time. I would like to see these conditions recognized financially and otherwise by the department.

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June 4, 1948

Mr. MATTHEWS (Brandon):

I listened attentively, but I must admit I did not hear the observation of the minister a while ago. I should like to know what he said. Sitting here I could not get it at all.

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May 24, 1948

Mr. J. E. MATTHEWS (Brandon):

Mr. Speaker, I do not imagine I shall be expected to agree with all the remarks so forcefully made by the hon. member (Mr. Fleming) who has just taken his seat. I must admit I agree with some of what he has said. And I trust, when I have concluded what I have to say, he may also agree with some of the statements I make. I hope that to be so, even though it does not develop into a complete love feast between us.

Contrary to the hon. member's remarks, I have been impressed this year, as indeed I was a year ago, with the able budget speech delivered by the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott), and I wish to add my hearty congratulations to the many he has already received. I look back to the night a year ago when the present minister announced a surplus for 1946 of 8374,000,000, and a reduction in our national debt for that year of 8352,000,000.

I well recall the criticism directed against him at that time-first, because there was a surplus at all, and, second, because he had reduced our debt. My own opinion was that when the Minister of Finance at that time estimated a surplus of 8190,000,000 on this year's transactions he would not be far out. I had a lot of confidence in his cool, careful 5849-275J

calculations. But had he a year ago estimated a surplus of, not $190,000,000 but 8670,000,000, my faith in his judgment would have received a severe shock.

I do not propose to follow this debate through all the devious channels it may pursue. To me, one acid test of the year's transactions is that the business of Canada has been kept going under a full head of steam. In some instances taxes have been reduced-not very much; and $670,000,000 has been paid on our national debt.

Critics may talk for months on the smaller questions involved; but again I say that the huge reduction in our debt is the acid test and cannot be controverted. There was the $352,000,000 reduction in 1946 and $647,000,000 in 1947, making about a billion dollars of our national debt paid in two years.

How will that affect our interest payments for the coming year? Well, the interest on a billion dollars at three per cent would be $30,000,000 a year. That $30,000,000 saving each year may appear just chicken feed to some; but it is not so to me. It may be well to keep in mind that for eighty-one years, since confederation, the federal government has had only seventeen surpluses. They were in 1871, i872, 1900, 1903, 1904, 1907, 1912, 1913, 1924 to 1930, 1947 and 1948.

It is safe to assume that the two last-mentioned outdistance all former surpluses combined. We should also not forget that our Minister of Finance has an unbroken record of surpluses, one for every year he has occupied the driver's seat. Not only that, but he estimates another half billion surplus for. 1948; and I say, "More power to him."

To me a nation's business, so far as the finances are concerned, is the business of the individuals who comprise that nation. The taxpayers of Canada are the shareholders of this huge government business. We have a general manager, and he has presented his annual report called the budget speech. The question which interests me most, and which should interest every shareholder-otherwise called taxpayer-is whether or not our general manager, known as the Minister of Finance, and those associated with him, are making a success of their work.

I suggest that a general manager of any business in the world who could show results to his shareholders comparable with those reported by the Minister of Finance in his annual report would be wined and dined as the hero of the company. The shareholders without exception would be proud of him, and their applause would not take the form of a want of confidence motion.

Such a motion means only this, that he should be replaced by some new, untried and

The Budget-Mr. J. E. Matthews

possibly inexperienced amateur. I can assure my good friends that the people of Canada, the shareholders of our nation's business, are not so gullible as to take on any such risk as that. The shareholders will be inclined to ask definitely, who is in mind, anyway, to succeed the Minister of Finance. I wonder how many people in Canada realize that if you take all the railways of Canada and all the chartered banks of Canada and tie them all up together, their combined business as indicated by gross revenue is only one-third of the volume of business transacted by the dominion government. That is to say, the gross revenue of all the railways of Canada is $758 million, and of all the banks of Canada, $229 million, and of the dominion government $2,869 million, or three times greater.

The cost of running this huge business last year, for instance, was $1,985 million; and at that it was $131 million less than the previous year. May I emphasize here a statement made by the Minister of Finance in his budget speech, that a total of $1,214,288,000 of Canada's expenditures is uncontrollable-such items as family allowances, pensions, interest on the public debt, subsidies for provinces, contributions to various government agencies. My criticism is-and I shall be frank about it- that what are called "uncontrollable expenditures" have been permitted to reach proportions far beyond what is reasonable or necessary in this country. These uncontrollable expenditures had better be kept under control. It is the taxpayer's money. He proposes to have a voice as to how that money will be spent. I think in that regard a word to the wise might be sufficient.

I have not much respect for an individual who does not pay his bills, or at least make an effort to do so. I have the deepest sympathy for the man who, because of ill-health or unavoidable losses, cannot discharge his indebtedness. My feelings toward a nation are exactly the same as toward an individual.

I have no hesitation in saying that the minister has a sound idea in reducing our indebtedness each year to the largest possible degree now, when times are good. You may call it cyclical budgeting, if you wish, but I call it plain, common sense. Taxes are never popular, but the real test is not how much taxes you have paid, but how much you have remaining after they are paid.

I shall not take the time to speak of fishing, mining, pulpwood production and many other sources of revenue, but at this time I want to make special reference to agriculture. So far as I am aware, Canada has never had a Minister of Agriculture who has worked so zealously and so persistently in the interests

of the farmer as has the present Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner). I say that quite frankly and I do not think anyone will attempt to contradict me. He had the vision to see, and the government had the vision to support him, that a prosperous farm population would contribute immeasurably to the prosperity of Canada as a whole and therefore make this country better able to bear the tremendous financial demands resulting from the war.

To that end he set his course, with the result that, during the years 1939 to 1947 inclusive, there was paid to farmers in Canada in subsidies, bonuses, freight assistance and other similar forms, no less than $528,979,000. That is a lot of money over and above the regular farm income. That amount includes bonus cheques which farmers received on quality cheese amounting to approximately $12,000,000; on fluid and concentrated milk, butter-fats, et cetera, $156,000,000. The premium on hogs amounted to $35,000,000. Then there were other channels, including $87,000,000 which was applied to prairie farm assistance in the form of acreage bonuses resulting from poor crops; there was $25,000,000 for prairie farm rehabilitation to build dams, dug-outs and other conservation works; there was $19,000,000 prairie farm income, including such items as compensation for storing grain on the farm; there was $88,000,000 for wheat acreage reduction, which means just what it says. Then $100,000,000 was applied to feed freight assistance, feed wheat drawbacks, plus over $2,000,000 subsidy to increase Canada's bacon export trade, along with another $1,000,000 as an egg export subsidy.

I suggest that there had to be a lot of cheques issued in Ottawa and cashed by the farmers of Canada to absorb the tremendous amounts I have quoted. Someone will ask whether these huge payments have been justified, but my answer will be that they have been amply justified, away beyond the slightest contradiction. Farmers and non-farmers felt that the cash farm return in 1946 of $1,752,000,000 might not be equalled for many years, it being twice as high as it was in 1939.

But what happened? The returns for 1947 showed an increase of $237,900,000 over 1946, or a total of $1,990,600,000, or close to the two billion mark. In other words, there was an increase of $161,000,000 over Canada's previous peak year of 1944. The 1947 farm income that I have quoted includes an increase over 1946 of $128,000,000 from the sale of grain, seed and hay; and an increase from the sale of livestock from $574,600,000 in 1946 to $590,000,000 in 1947. But it does not include payments made to farmers under the Prairie Farm

The Budget-Mr. J. E. Matthews

Assistance Act, another $11,577,000, this bringing the total farm income last year to the astounding figure of $2,002,000,000. Two billion dollars-we may well wonder, along with the Minister of Agriculture, when and to what extent that record will ever be broken.

It was illuminating, to say the least, to read in a western paper not long ago a letter signed C. Bolton, Knighton, Radnorshipe, England, paying wonderful tribute to Canada's Minister of Agriculture, a9 "a man of vision", something, he said, which was very much lacking in the world today. "He wisely agreed," said Mr. Bolton, "to a wheat price which he knew we could pay, and which over a series of years would undoubtedly pay the farmers, for whom he works so hard, much better than an inflated price and a defaulting creditor." Mr. Bolton goes on to express some comparisons so striking that it would be scarcely ethical to quote them here.

So far as 1948 is concerned, the twenty cents a bushel increase in the initial wheat payment, retroactive for three crops, will put many a farmer away to another good start, meaning, as it does, the distribution of an extra $150,000,000 now being made among western farmers. The return this year also of the refundable portions, the compulsory saving feature, of the 1943 and 1944 income taxes, amounting to $230,000,000, will bring revenue into many homes, besides reducing future interest payments by the government.

As against this, however, there are extra expenditures to be provided for. The new health program is placed at an initial annual expenditure of $30,000,000 a year. The increase in Canada's war pensions will boost that expenditure from $73,000,000 to $91,000,000 per year. This commendable increase will benefit 400,000 Canadian men, women and children, including 153,000 disabled veterans and 17,000 widows.

The increase in old age pensions, pensions for the blind, health and hospitalization allowances and more persons drawing family allowances, will mean another $27,000,000 expenditure for 1948. These expenditures, along with unemployment insurance, war service gratuities, and similar grants, have increased tremendously during the past ten years. For instance, the amount paid in family allowances since its inception is around $700,000,000.

I have quoted sufficient to indicate that the farmers as a whole all across Canada have made a wonderful response in the matter of production. There have been references of late to the butter supply. Some claimed that the farmers, particularly the younger farmers, were letting the country down in dairy production. I did not believe it, at all events so far as Manitoba is concerned. In order to settle the point, I have before me the official report issued by the department of agriculture of Manitoba. From that report I learn that creamery butter manufactured in Manitoba in 1947 amounted to 26,265,141 pounds or an increase of 198,513 pounds over 1946; and dairy butter, 5,963,000 pounds.

The total milk production in Manitoba in 1947 was 1,230,740,429 pounds, or an increase of 11,666,792 pounds over 1946. There were seventy creameries manufacturing butter in Manitoba in 1947, and twenty-three manufacturing cheese. The estimated farm value of butter, creamery and dairy, made in Manitoba last year was $14,534,000, and of cheese, $890,000.

The total farm value of the milk produced in that province was $25,932,000. I mention these figures to show that if there is any slowing down of milk production in Canada, the fault cannot be laid at the door of Manitoba farmers.

In hog production the number of carcasses shipped in 1947 was less than in 1946; the number of live hogs remaining on the farm at the end of 1947 was more.

May I add right here, as a matter of information, that the official report from which I have quoted gives the following estimated average income per farm as follows:


Year per farm

1941 $1,550

1942 2,639

1943 3,040

1944 3,444

1945 2,779

1946 3,416

1947 3,597

When speaking on the budget a year ago, I referred, perhaps boastfully, to the success of Manitoba farmers at the Toronto Royal all down the years, and particularly in 1946. Last November, or was it December, they even eclipsed all former records. They exhibited 128 animals and won 135 prizes, including twenty-two firsts, twenty-five seconds, nineteen thirds, sixteen fourths, thirteen fifths, eleven sixths, and the remainder in close proximity. In addition to prizes, they won outstanding awards, namely two grand championships, two reserve grand, one senior, one reserve senior, one junior, five reserve juniors. In 1946, they won eleven awards and ninety-eight prizes; in 1947, twelve awards and 135 prizes. No further comment is necessary regarding the excellence of Manitoba livestock.

This good farming and attention to business has brought commendable results. For instance,

The Budget-Mr. J. E. Matthews

last year the Manitoba farm loans association had only 310 outstanding mortgages, 303 agreements for sale, and 193 farms remaining for settlement, as against 1,162 mortgages, 657 agreements for sale, and 641 farms in 1941. The association's collections last year alone approached the million dollar mark.

The record of the Canadian farm loan board is equally good. Of 1,678 first mortgages and 222 second mortgages, the amount of principal overdue more than six months at the end of 1947 was $65.71, and the amount of interest overdue, not one dollar.

A writer in an American magazine not long ago deplored the unscientific methods of Canadian agriculture. I read the article to the end, expecting to find some explanation as to why Canadian farmers took the first ten places in the world wheat competition at Chicago in 1947. I expected to find some explanation as to wrhy Canadian farmers almost invariably win the grand championships in wheat, barley and oats in American competitions, and as to why the most advanced American farmers grow, though not so successfully, the finer sturdier varieties of wheat, developed by Canadian scientists. I did lot find the explanation.

Speaking of progress made by many western farmers, I want to draw attention to an organization that quietly and without ostentation has been doing very effective work in this country. I refer to the Farm Improvement Loans Act passed in 1944 during the financial administration of the present Minister of Justice (Mr. Ilsley). The act was designed as a short cut to the more speedy financing of improvements on the farm. The loans were actually made through the chartered banks, but with a substantial degree of government endorsation. They were put through at five per cent interest, and during the three years 1945-46-47 approximately forty thousand farmers obtained loans, amounting to thirty-one and a half million dollars, for the purpose of farm and home improvements.

It is interesting to note to what wise and helpful uses these loans were approximately applied.

Thirty thousand loans ($25,000,000) were applied to the purchase of farm implements, notably trucks and tractors.

Four thousand loans (over $4,000,000) were for the construction or repair of farm dwellings, bams and outbuildings.

Twenty-five hundred loans (almost $1,000,000) were for the clearing and breaking of new land, resulting in 123,680 acres heretofore uncultivated having been brought into production. Seventeen hundred and twentyfive loans (over $1,000,000) were applied to the purchase of livestock.

One hundred and forty-nine loans ($86,000) were devoted to fencing and farm drainage.

Better still, although operations were begun only in 1945, nearly half the loans made up to the end of 1947 have already been repaid in full, notwithstanding the fact that loans may be effected for a period up to ten years.

Thus far, not one dollar loss has been experienced, a record which speaks volumes for the wise and efficient administration of the act. The fact also that approximately 40,000 Canadian farm homes have already been made more comfortable, or the farm rendered more productive, as a result of those loans, is ample justification of the recent extension of the act for another three years. I submit that this type of legislation is desirable and constructive and has the added virtue of being in no sense paternalistic.

We may well wonder if, and when, the pendulum may begin to swing the other way; for it would seem improbable that our present successes will continue indefinitely without reverses of some kind. It is assuring, however, to note the efforts toward stabilizing conditions that are being made. For instance, what a hopeful statement was that made by the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply (Mr. Howe) recently when he announced that 4,000 Canadian companies will invest a billion and a half dollars before March 31, 1949, in a reconversion program producing new commodities in Canada. Hon. members will admit that this is facing the situation in the minister's characteristic big way.

Then again, the recent international wheat agreement endorsed by thirty-six importing and exporting nations, after several years' efforts, is an achievement which Canada has long sought.

Many former markets are now non-existent, and have to be replaced. To this end, in formulating international trade agreements- thus expanding in ever-widening circles our business relations with other countries-Canada owes a big debt to the recent Minister of Trade and Commerce, the present Minister of Fisheries (Mr. MacKinnon). I am confident that few people realize how great is the contribution he has made to expanding the trade of this country. For instance, last year's substantial increase in trade was augmented by an increase in our exports to Latin American countries of over 50 per cent, those to Argentina showing an increase of almost 200 per cent; in fact, almost every republic in South and Central America has increased its Canadian buying. Canadian exports also to Australia and New Zealand are reported to have

The Budget-Mr. J. E. Matthews

increased about 80 per cent over 1946. Our exports to Brazil, which used to amount to about five million dollars, grew in 1946 to


Canada was the second largest source of supply for Britain last year, with an increase of 17 per cent over 1946.

As hon. members are aware, the former Minister of Trade and Commerce made an extensive trip last year and, I think, proved himself a splendid combination of salesman and statesman. No one can estimate what that one trip will mean to the future trade of this country. I desire to quote briefly from an article in the Monetary Times in which the former Minister of Trade and Commerce gives his own impressions.

As head of the Canadian trade mission to South Africa and the Mediterranean area, it was my privilege to share personally in yet another constructive step towards the promotion of Canadian trade. Travelling some 25,000 miles, the mission, made up of prominent Canadian industrialists and government officials, visited eleven different countries for trade discussions, and touched briefly at seven others. Our primary object was a good will visit to Canada's third best customer, the Union of South Africa, which is more fortunate than other sterling countries in that she is able to pay for dollar imports out of her vast gold resources. Everywhere the mission travelled it met with a reception which could leave no doubt with respect to the warm regard in which Canada is held abroad. Officials and businessmen alike were impressed by the fact that we had a genuine interest in trying to assist them in developing a market in Canada for their products, as well as in promoting our own export trade. The good will resulting from the visits made by the mission will be remembered for many years, and I am sure wi11 ^ have a most beneficial effect on Canada's trading relations in the future.

We hear a great deal today about the cost of living. I was interested in an article published on May 3, 1947, by the London Recorder, giving a breakdown of how the average man and woman in England spent each pound of personal expenditure in 1946. I have the list before me, and I have translated the amounts into terms of dollar spending, to make it more readily understandable here. These are the figures for England, out of each dollar of personal expenditure, as I have stated:



Alcoholic beverages and tobacco

Rent, water

Fuel, light

Durable house furnishing

Other household goods


Books, newspapers

Private motoring



Other goods and services


In Canada, the following table from the bureau of statistics will show, in a manner as nearly as possible comparable with the table in the London Recorder, a breakdown of the average personal expenditure on the different items which go into the consumer's budget in Canada. Both tables are for expenditures in 1946. Out of every dollar of personal expenditure the average person in Canada spent

in 1946:


Food 27-2

Alcoholic beverages and tobacco 11-2

Fuel 3-6

Rent utilities and household operation.. 12-6

Durable house furnishing 3-3

Other household goods 1-0

Clothing 14-4

Books, magazines and newspapers 1-2

Transportation, including street-car, bus, train and aeroplane fares, private

motoring and purchases of gasoline_____ 6-9

Automobiles and accessories 2-4

Recreation, amusements generally, holiday and resort expenses 2-1

Other goods and services 14-1

Total $1.00

It will surprise many Canadians to learn

from a statement made by the minister that in the United States a single taxpayer with no dependents has exemption up to only $600; and that, while in Canada $800 means an income tax of $5, in the United States it means a tax of $20; also that a married taxpayer with no children has exemption in the United States up to only $1,200. In Canada a $1,600 income means to such a person a tax of $10, but in the United States a tax of $40.

I stand four square in support of the government in having had the will and the courage to impose taxes commensurate with the imperative demands of war. This is no time for our Canadian people to forget the astounding contribution made by this country toward prosecution of the war. And why not? It was our war, and upon the result of that war depended our freedom, with all that word involves. Yes, our war effort was stupendous, and the taxes we are paying today, as a result of that war effort, are, and will continue to be, a definite burden. Yet, in terms of what we have remaining, our contribution is a mere bagatelle when compared with the devastated homes and absolute ruin visited upon our allied nations in Europe.

Furthermore, I am confident it can never be said that Canada scuttled the allied ship with the cessation of hostilities. Our nearest ally should be better versed on that score than any other nation, and it is encouraging, yes, inspiring, to read in some United States papers acknowledgment of Canada's contribution to post-war efforts. At Washington recently the

The Budget-Mr. J. E. Matthews

Tabloid News paid tribute to what our country has done in the way of aid to Europe, stating that Canada's aid in terms of relative population or national income is greater than that of the United States. These are its concluding words:

To the world's need in peace or war, Canada makes a bold and sacrificial contribution, but quietly and without fanfare.

The Portland, Oregon, Journal, in a fairly recent article pointed out that Canada's population is only one-eleventh of the United States, and her national income about one-fifteenth, so that the loans and outright gifts of 81,850 million made by Canada to Europe are the equivalent of a United States loan of 820,350 million in terms of population, or $27,750 million in terms of national income. Surely this is a striking comparison and a friendly tribute from our southern neighbour.

These facts have been widely commented upon by other leading papers in the United States. I could quote from many others did time permit. For instance, the New York World-Telegram, with a daily circulation of almost 400,000, has this to say concerning the facts I have cited:

It is a sturdy and noble people that we have to the north of us. Canadians are a bulwark of democracy and decency. We are indeed fortunate in our neighbours.

Mr. Speaker, I would commend those words from United States papers to some hon. members in this chamber who never lose an opportunity of endeavouring to belittle Canada whether in war or peace.

We sometimes hear it said that all that portion of a taxpayer's income exceeding $25,000 should be confiscated. Well, that would not help very much. A concise analysis appeared in an Ottawa paper not long ago, bearing upon 1946 returns:

The figures showed that the combined incomes of all Canadians getting $25,000 a year or more totalled $113 million. If, therefore, the government were to take away from this group every cent they made, it would still be short about $1,600 million of what it needs in the way of cash in order to administer the country. If put in another way, all the incomes of all our so-called rich, grabbed by Mr. Abbott, wouldn't be enough to pay half of the baby bonus for one year.

The people of Canada may expect to pay taxes, heavy taxes, for many years as a result of the war. So long as those taxes are applied in substantial measure to reduce our national debt, Canadians will take a reasonable view of the situation. But they are going to insist, yes, they are going to demand, and I hope they will, that the taxes which they pay and for which they have worked

so hard are not frittered away in fantastic government expenditures.

Even with the astounding reductions in our national debt made during the past two years by the Minister of Finance, we are still burdened with a debt of enormous proportions. It seems to me that in order to retire that debt we must have millions more people in Canada. We must open our doors more widely than ever before to desirable immigrants from other countries. We have a tremendous extent of country populated by only twelve million people. Europe, including Britain, with an area half the size of Canada, has a population of four hundred million. In other words, were we as densely peopled as Europe, our population would be eight hundred million instead of only twelve million. We have a task before us. We cannot expect to hold indefinitely great stretches of unoccupied lands when there are many million human beings huddled together in other countries, yearning to assist in the development of Canada's rich and, to a large extent, untouched resources. Yes, a largely increased population will be a potent factor in the reduction of our national debt.

As regards taxation, some resentment was engendered among farmers with respect to the new income tax forms prepared for 1947 returns. I believe that to quite an extent, particularly in western Canada, the object, or what I hope was the object, of that new form was misunderstood.

I am glad to endorse the new efforts made by the department to run down tax evaders. Honest taxpayers all across Canada will heartily endorse that action.

I cannot recall having heard at any session so many members lauding their constituencies, and at considerable length, as during the present session. It was all very commendable, all very interesting, and I think we should have more of it.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I say all honour to those who have not hesitated to place on the record of this parliament a tribute to the constituencies they represent, and to the efforts of the people.

However, I am in a position to pay a tribute greater still to the people of my constituency, and one not touched upon by other members. We have it on the highest authority that life does not consist of bread alone, and that a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches. Let me say here that I have the honor and the satisfaction of representing the constituency of Brandon in the House of Commons longer, with one exception, than any member since confederation. And in all those years, it has never

The Budget-Mr. H. 0. White

been suggested to me directly or indirectly that I should stoop to any political act of a doubtful nature. That is my tribute to my constituents, and it is one of which I am justly proud.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, may I again congratulate the minister and his department on a big task having been carried to a successful conclusion by a big man.

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May 19, 1948

Mr. J. E. MATTHEWS (Brandon):

Mr. Speaker, when speaking outside this chamber I have on various occasions gone out of my way to extol the calibre of federal members irrespective of party. I have no regrets for having done so, but I confess a measure of disappointment at the unfairness that has characterized a great many of the addresses on the housing situation. I am still more disappointed because of the sources of a large part of that criticism.

To hon. members at large it must have been disappointing, almost pitiable in fact, that few of the critics gave voice to one constructive, practical thought. I must name the hon. member who has just taken his seat (Mr. Timmins) and the hon. member for Lethbridge (Mr. Blackmore) as noted exceptions. How many hon. members even ventured to suggest what they would have done had they been minister of reconstruction during the last few years?

It is because of that unfairness, because of that pettiness, shall I say, that I raise my voice in support of the efforts of a minister who, all through the dark years of war, almost at the sacrifice of his own life, and right up to the present hour has given every ounce of energy in his being to further and safeguard the interests of the people of Canada. We must not forget that the minister of reconstruction has a record of achievement simply astounding in its proportions, a record which I feel free to say not another man in Canada could have excelled and few if any could have equalled. I cannot leave unchallenged some of the unfair remarks that

have been directed toward his work and the work of faithful officers in his department.

As we all know, during the war there was practically no residential building carried on. Many buildings already erected were not kept in repair because of lack of materials. Construction was confined to those mammoth projects which were erected with feverish haste all across Canada for military training and administration. During those years we were not interested in the building of homes. Instead of that, we concentrated on saving the homes we had, by winning the war and to that end supplying our soldiers with food and fighting equipment.

When hostilities ceased our first anxiety was to get those men who were spared back to their loved ones. Everyone realized the difficulties in that regard because of lack of shipping. Everyone realizes also that the conversion of war plants into peacetime production was no short process.

During this debate there have been repeated references to the Curtis report which attempted to set an objective for post-war building. I am wondering how many of those who participated in that report were actual builders, and how many were academic in their experience. No doubt all were actuated by the best of motives, but did they realize back in 1943 how great would be the changes in economic conditions following the war? It is because of those changes, completely and unavoidably unforeseen, that I suggest the Curtis report has become outmoded and can no longer be regarded as an authority.

But apart altogether from the Curtis report, here we were in this situation at the close of the war. There was no reserve of building material from which to draw, none whatever. Therefore men had to be secured to go to the logging camps and fell the trees, others in many cases to transport the lumber to the mills. Men who understood mining had to be secured to dig the coal, others to dig the ore, others to man the cement plants, and the quarries.

But in their simplicity, or is it simplicity, one would think, to hear some of those critics talk, that on the evening when hostilities ceased there was some magic button which the * minister could have pressed, and pronto, the very next morning there would have been lumber and steel, yes, even nails, in fact an unlimited supply of all materials in every lumberyard and hardware store in the country. However, there was no magic button, but rather an avalanche of hard, stern facts confronting the minister at that time.

The Curtis report set a target of 750,000 housing units to be erected in ten years; that

National Housing Act

is from September 1, 1945, the day when hostilities ceased, up to September 1, 1955. That would mean, on a pro rata basis, 187,500 in two and a half years up to March 1, 1948. That was the target. Has it been reached? Well, some hon. members will recall that the minister stated in this chamber about ten days ago that in the first two and a half years 200,000 units in round numbers had been completed, with about 40,000 more partly completed; and this was accomplished, may I remind the house, notwithstanding the delays, the unavoidable delays, to which I have referred, in getting started in the first place.

So where does the criticism come in? Is it because the minister is exceeding the Curtis report? That is how it would appear. From some speeches we have heard, one can imagine the gloating criticism that would have been forthcoming had he fallen below the Curtis objective. The Curtis report suggested 375,000 units, when taken on a pro rata basis, in the five years up to September 1, 1950. The minister has expressed the belief that we shall continue to exceed that objective in the future as we have exceeded it in the past. I believe every member of this house, right down in his heart, appreciated the statement made by the minister, plain, straightforward, unequivocal, with neither boast nor bluster. In his statement at that time we were told that, of 77,000 units actually completed in 1947, there had been 22,000 built for rental, under various forms of government sponsorship, National Housing, Wartime Housing, Emergency Shelter, V.L.A., et cetera.

The other 55,000 units were for home owners. It has been proudly said that a man's home is his castle, and to me there could be no more promising sign of national stability than for Canadian people to prefer to own their own homes. I believe that, in so doing, they should receive every encouragement. Surely there are none who have persuaded themselves into the belief that the government should have taken over the whole building program, and should not have permitted any citizen even in democratic Canada to build a home for himself. I sometimes wonder.

In that connection may I say that there comes to me every month, and perhaps to many hon. members, a small but excellent publication, known as The Scene, from Shing-wauk Farm. It is published at Bracebridge, Ontario. An article in the last issue contains two paragraphs which I desire to quote:

The housing shortage in Ontario today is due to three things-the scarcity of satisfactory material, the scarcity of satisfactory labour and the fact that it does not pay to build houses to rent.

There are probably more than 20,000 people in Ontario today who are financially able and are prepared to build houses for themselves to live in as soon as satisfactory materials and labour are available. If the government steps into the market and grabs off the materials and labour to build 20,000 houses, it will only mean that 20,000 private citizens will have to defer their building plans until the government is through. Will the government's 20,000 houses do any more to relieve the shortage than a like number of privately built dwellings would have done? Certainly not.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the writer of that article must be himself a builder, because he certainly has the faculty of hitting the nail right on the head.

It was interesting to me to hear the other evening an hon. member for whom I have the greatest rosnect name several towns or cities in Ontario that want houses. One wants 100, another, twenty-five; another, fifty, and so on. Well, who is preventing them? I am sure it is not the government. I can tell the hon. member about a small town or village in my own constituency that also w'anted houses. Those who needed the houses got busy and built them, and when I was in that town a few months ago there were over a hundred houses in course of construction, some nearing completion, others just begun. The parties building those houses were not wealthy in the ordinary meaning of the word; but, better than that, they were endowed with a wealth of thrifty habits and independent thinking. They did not go to their neighbours demanding assistance, by insisting that those neighbours pay higher taxes to the government in order that the government, by the granting of subsidies, would assist in the building of those homes. Nothing of the kind. And I can well understand that those hundred families living in their own homes, the result of their own work, their own savings, and their own planning will be much happier and more contented than if living in homes built or subsidized by any government agency. This has no reference, of course, to cases where permanent residence at any point is improbable and where individual building might therefore be unwise.

The taxpayers of Canada know from experience what subsidies mean. They know that every dollar thus raised comes out of their own pockets, be they rich or poor.

We hear reference occasionally to New Zealand's building program. Who would withhold - certainly not I - the slightest credit for the good work done in that country, even though it does fall far below what has been accomplished in Canada? However, what is the situation in New Zealand according to what would seem to be reliable reports? A statement issued recently by

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Prime Minister Fraser indicated' that last year New Zealand had built 9,500 units, and in the last three years 31,000 units, not 200,000 in two and a half years, as has been dene in Canada. On a basis of population, as someone has pointed out, that means in New Zealand fifty-three units, and in Canada seventy-five units, for each 10,000 population, a lead of almost 50 per cent in favour of Canada. Incidentally I understand that in the United States the building units per 10,000 population range between sixty-five and seventy.

An Ottawa paper carried recently an article by Isabel Atkinson, dated at Auckland, New Zealand, in which she said:

There are 56,000 unfilled applications listed for state houses in New Zealand and there are said to be five new applications made for each one filled. Without any new applications it *would take several years of construction to satisfy the demand existing now, even if the current objective, 10,000 to 12,000 state houses a year, is achieved.

I have before me also a booklet issued recently by the New Zealand veterans. They, too, are having housing troubles. There they have only a 50 per cent priority in the allocation of government-built houses. In Canada the veterans have a 100 per cent priority on all rental projects sponsored by the government, the allocation being made on a point system.

The veterans point out that the cost of construction in New Zealand has increased 56 per cent from 1939 to 1946. How much more it increased last year I do not know. The veterans point out further that this colossal rise in costs is viewed with the greatest concern and that for the government to increase their "rehabilitation loans" would have no beneficial effect. In their own words:

Indeed it would only accentuate the present rising costs.

That, Mr. Speaker, I would say, is an indication of realistic thinking, and certainly it touches on a vital point here as well as in New Zealand. It is always possible in any country, whether in building or in some other activity, that because of mounting costs governments and individuals alike are compelled to call a halt. I sincerely trust that common sense may forestall any such eventuality in the building program in this country, even though the present outlook in that respect is not promising. However, that is more an individual than a government responsibility.

We all remember back in the gloomy days when Churchill sent forth that challenging appeal that aroused and electrified the allied nations: "Give us the tools and we'll finish the job." The Minister of Reconstruction and Supply and his department may with almost

equal force issue their challenge to the Canadian people, "Give us the materials at anything like reasonable cost, and we'll finish the job".

I understand that the national research council are right now making investigations into the possibilities of adopting new methods, and to some extent new materials, in order to facilitate our building program, and that actual experiments in building are now being made in accord with those new advances of the research council. Let us hope that they may prove successful.

Another commendable feature is the increasing desire on the part of provinces and municipalities to co-operate with federal housing agencies in the sounder, and more harmonious, planning of subdivisions. Much can be done in this regard to ensure more attractive grounds and lawns than would be the case if it were left to haphazard methods. Among other well appointed projects based on sound community planning, the following may be regarded as outstanding:

Willingdon Heights, Vancouver Renfrew Heights, Vancouver Diceonson project, Edmonton Wildwood project, Winnipeg Bel'lwood project, London Brant Court, Burlington Yorkminster, Toronto Mann Avenue, Ottawa Benny Farm, Montreal Beauport. Quebec Rockwood, Moncton AVestmount, Halifax

Architects, officials in charge, and all concerned, are certainly to be congratulated on their efforts to make those properties attractive in their design, and therefore a source of greater pleasure to the residents.

It is said that those who were endeavouring at one time to locate a monument to Sir Christopher Wren were told to "Look around". I would suggest to certain hon. members that they remove from their eves the coloured glasses of political bigotry and that they, too, look around. Look around Ottawa, if you will, with its expansive newly built areas extending far into the suburbs on either side. Look around Toronto, east and north and west, where it may almost be said that new cities have arisen overnight. Broaden your vision still further by means of travel. Visit every province in Canada; visit many cities and towns; visit those hundreds of municipalities that have co-operated with the department in a worthwhile building program. Visit them from coast to coast and look around. Then, and then only, will you gain some adequate idea of the tens and tens of thousands of homes that have been erected all across this country, in the short period of two and a

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half years since the war ended. Consider the tremendous amounts of material that have been made available for their construction, and then tell me where in all Canada you could have found a minister who would have done a better job. When I say Canada, indeed I speak of a territory too restricted, for it is a recognized fact that, according to population, Canada leads the world in post-war housing.

So I say to the minister, disregarding the critic and the cynic, continue your building efforts largely along the lines that in your good judgment and with your wide experience appear to you as best. The people of Canada have unbounded confidence in your ability and your integrity. They are proud of your clean, unsullied record, free from even any suspicion of wrongdoing. They recognize and appreciate the dynamic energy with which you are so richly endowed. So carry on.

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