Ontario's Postwar Planning Needs
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 15 Feb 1945, p. 282-297

Langford, George B., Speaker
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Item Type:
The definition and nature of planning. Some well-defined steps to planning. The joint responsibility of citizens and government. The necessity for co-operation between the people of the Province and the Government. The creation of this Department of Planning and Development by an Act of the Legislature in 1944. Duties as outlined in the Act. Tasks as evolved, and current activities: rehabilitation and re-establishment of men and women from the Armed Forces; town and community planning; conservation; trade and industry. Other divisions to be formed as the necessity arises. An outline of the mean features of each task. The urgency for a much more vigorous planning campaign in Ontario. The completion and results of a survey of the extent of the planning that has been done for postwar public works construction projects throughout the Province by Municipal Governments. The bulk of the projects still in the "idea" stage. What needs to be done immediately.
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15 Feb 1945
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Chairman: The President, Mr. C. R. Conquergood
Thursday, February 15, 1945

MR. CONQUERGOOD: When the present Ontario Government took office, they created a new Ministry, known as the Department of Planning and Development. To head this department, under the Hon. Dana Porter, they selected for its director, Dr. George B. Langford, our guest speaker for today.

In setting up this Department, there came into official form a branch whose duty it would be, among other things, to co-ordinate and co-relate many postwar planning programs that have for some time been receiving considerable public attention. So keen was public interest in the subject that there were occasions when it appeared that planning might assume almost the proportions of a national pastime. When plans are made by persons with some experience as well as vision, and with some consideration of public need as well as of its wishes, we can hope for successful construction to follow.

The new Department, as you will note, is not alone for planning, but for "Planning and Development." This combination of purpose and function should serve as a check to the theories of "Brain-Trusters" (if we have any), by transforming them from the verbiage of oratory to a more practical expression in the realm of realities in our democratic way of life.

Dr. Langford is not a stranger to The Empire Club. It is just about two years ago that he addressed us on the subject of "Education for Democracy." He is a native of Toronto. His early education was received in Calgary, and his first university was the University of Alberta. Later, he studied in Toronto University and in Cornell University. He is a graduate engineer, who has specialized in mining. He has practised in Canada, Newfoundland, Cuba and South America. In 1937, he joined the staff of the University of Toronto as Professor of Mining Geology and at present is Director of the Department of Planning and Development for the Province of Ontario.

It is a pleasure to present Dr. George B. Langford, B.A., Ph.D., F.R.S.C. (which being interpreted means "Fellow of the Royal Society of -Canada"), who will ad dress us on the subject "Ontario's Postwar Planning Needs."

DR. GEORGE B. LANGFORD : Mr.-Chairman and Gentlemen: Talk of planning has become a fetish with the people of this country and in all probability with the people of all countries. The very word has become so "kicked around" and so commonplace that I wish there were a suitable synonym which we could substitute for it. Since our language seems to lack a good substitute word we will have to continue to use the word "planning."

Since we must talk of planning, let us start our discussion by making sure that we understand not only the the word but also what is implied in the process of making a plan. The dictionary tells us that a plan is a proposed method of action or procedure, but to me it signifies much more than that. It signifies all that goes into the making of a plan.

There are three well defined steps that must be taken in their proper sequence in the creating or making of a plan: the first of these steps is the taking stock of the existing situation--it makes no difference whether you are planning for a province or whether you are a housewife planning a meal-the first thing you must do is to have a clear-cut statement of your present position. When the stocktaking has been done, then you must make up your mind whether or not you are satisfied with what you have. If you are not satisfied then you must determine what changes or improvements are necessary or desirable. This is the creative or inspirational part of planning; this is where new ideas enter into an enterprise. When you have decided what improvements or changes or new ideas you wish to adopt, then you are ready for the third and final step-the actual planning of how you will bring about the changes which you want.

Taking these three steps is a joint responsibility of the citizens and of the government. The first step--the stock taking--can usually best be done by groups of citizens with governmental assistance and guidance. The second step--deciding what changes and improvements are wanted--is largely the responsibility of the people of the Province. The third step--the planning--can usually be done best by a government agency with certain assistance from citizen groups.

I have emphasized my conception of the planning procedure, but I have done so in order that you will realize the necessity of close co-operation between the people of the Province and the Government. Unless we have that co-operation our work will fall far short of what it should accomplish.

Planning is today a fad and a favorite pastime indulged in or talked about by every business man in the country and also every Government, whether Federal, Provincial or Municipal. The types of organization, committees and commissions that have been set up vary greatly across the country. The procedure which has been followed by many of the Provincial Governments has been to set up a postwar reconstruction commission or committee to study and report on the postwar needs. The activities of such bodies have been confined to stock taking and expressing opinions on the needed and desirable changes in the existing conditions. The Governments who followed that procedure must now set up other organizations to make plans for bringing about the recommended changes.

The present Government in Ontario followed a different procedure. They created a new department called the Department of Planning and Development. Its duties embrace all three of the steps of the planning procedure. The Department was created by an Act of the Legislature in 1944 and I am going to take the liberty of reading the section from that Act which sets forth its duties

"The Minister shall collaborate with the Ministers having charge of the other departments of the public service of Ontario, with the Ministers having charge of the departments of the public service of the Dominion and of other Provinces, with Municipal Councils, with agricultural, industrial, labor, mining, trade and other associations and organizations, and with public and private enterprises, with a view to formulating plans to create, assist, develop and maintain productive employment and to develop the human and material resources of the Province and to that end shall co-ordinate the work and functions of the Departments of the public service of Ontario."

Stripped of its legal varbiage, this means that the department shall do all those things which nobody else is doing.

The Department began to function in May of last year, with the Honourable Dana Porter as Minister, myself as Director, and that is all. Not only did we have no staff, we had no office; we did not even have a typewriter or filing cabinet and you know what that means in these days of shortages, and I can assure you we had no preconceived ideas of how we were going to solve the great problems of this Province. Since then we have never had a dull moment; as our task has unfolded we have been able to secure a few key men and today our activities are broken down into the following divisions or branches:

First, rehabilitation and re-establishment of men and women from the Armed Forces; second, town and community planning; third, conservation; fourth, trade and industry. Other divisions will be formed as the necessity arises--what I have lust stated is the present organization. Each division or branch will undoubtedly have to expand as it really gets into the job of stock-taking, idea-formulating and eventually planning. Expansions of this sort seem to be following the best traditions in governmental circles.

In the remarks which follow I will endeavour to outline the main features as we see them in each of our Branches.


The primary responsibility for the rehabilitation or re-establishment of men and women from the Armed Services belongs to the Federal Government and it has created a very generous rehabilitation programme. The activities which we are going to undertake will in no way duplicate or compete with the plans of the Federal Government. Our whole objective is to co-operate with the Federal authorities to the end that the men and women from our Armed Forces will be returned to normal civilian life in a completely satisfactory manner.

We believe that the majority of men and women re= turning from overseas will become civilians with a minimum of disturbance and with little or no help from official sources. However, there will be many who are going to find it difficult, perhaps very difficult, to change from soldiers to civilians. These are the men and women whom we hope to help. Some of these people have never had civilian jobs and so will be at a loss to know what to do in civil life. Others do not want to return to their pre-war jobs and will be looking for new types of employment. Others are going to find it hard to settle down to the somewhat monotonous routine of being a civilian after the exciting experiences of four or five years at war.

However, no one can rehabilitate anyone else. Proper rehabilitation can only come about when the person concerned puts forth some effort. We must assist these men and women in selecting some type of civilian occupation in which they are interested and in which they will be able to earn a living. When they have made up their minds what they want to do, it will then be necessary for them to be trained in the trade, occupation, or profession which they have selected.

For this purpose the Ontario Training and Reestablishment Centre has been created in the old Normal School on Church Street. It is a trades training school, operated under the joint auspices of the Federal Department of Labour and the Provincial Department of Education. At present there are numbers of men taking courses, which vary from motor mechanics to barbering, from cooking to completing their matriculation. It is our plan to organize a follow-up or personnel service to assist those who complete their training in becoming satisfactorily employed in industrial life.

We also believe that in administering a plan as complicated as the Federal Government Rehabilitation scheme, and dealing with so many hundreds of thousands of people, it is inevitable that mistakes will be made. We want every enlisted man and woman from Ontario who feels that any mistake has been made in his or her case, to come to us and we will attempt to have the case reviewed by the Federal authorities. Both the Federal Government and the Provincial Government are equally anxious that no injustice be done to any of our ex-service personnel. Our main points of contact with Service personnel will be through the Civilians' Rehabilitation Committees which have been formed in most of the Municipalities of the Province, and we are now organizing our activities towards that end.

Town and Community Planning.

To many people town or community planning means a super-highway and a flower garden with a few beautiful stream-lined buildings stuck in as a background. It is unfortunate that this misconception has become so deeply rooted. To us, community planning means planning for a way of living-a way of increasing our standards of living-a way of making the amenities of the twentieth century available to everyone. In order to accomplish these ends it is going to be necessary to re-design our communities, to re-develop the run-down and dilapidated areas which are found in the heart of every large community, and to provide better facilities of all sorts for the people of the entire province.

Many of you may not realize how badly your city or even your part of the city needs planning in some degree or other. I would suggest that you take stock of your own locality by asking yourself a few very simple questions such as these:

Do your children play on the street or is there a suitable and proper recreational ground for them?

Is there any place where community activities can be held?

Do you spend long hours every week travelling to and from your work in street cars or buses, or if you travel by car, do you have those long annoying waits in traffic jams at every important intersection?

If you own property, have you seen property values decrease because of an unfavourable development in the vicinity of your property?

If you will stop and think for a moment it is quite easy to ask yourself a score or more of such questions. If all the answers to them are satisfactory, then you do not need any planning in your part of the community. But I will wager that very few will find satisfactory answers to all such questions, and in that case, your community needs planning.

The next time you travel through Ontario, whether by highway or by railroad, pay particular attention to what you see and to the impression you receive as you pass through the towns and cities of this Province. I did this on a recent trip to Ottawa and by the time I had arrived in that city I had a very fixed impression of having passed through about as dilapidated a string of communities as one could hope to find anywhere and the railroad entrance to Ottawa is perhaps the worst of the lot.

I think it is a fair statement to say that Ontario is probably as backward as any Anglo-Saxon country in matters of community planning. The proper development of our communities and a higher standard of living will necessitate a great programme of public works construction, which in turn is going to be a very valuable reservoir of jobs in the post-war era.

The experience in many countries has been that the jobs created by such orderly, systematized planning, will have a much more stabilizing influence on an unemployment situation than the hasty, panicky type of public works construction, which is thought up as an emergency measure, and is generally considered to be little more than a dole. Estimates made by the Canadian Construction Association and by private concerns associated with, the construction industry, have estimated that the pubic works construction needs of Ontario are approximately one billion dollars. These needs include such items as housing, water supply, hospitals, garbage incinerators, sewage disposal plants, slum clearance projects, conservation of our natural resources, (especially flood control and the prevention of soil erosion), improved school facilities, extended rural electrification, improved transportation both rail, highway and by air, reforestation, playgrounds and recreational areas, improved traffic arteries in our large cities, facilities for better community life in rural areas, new municipal buildings, art centres, libraries, community balls and theatres.

Some of these projects are urgently needed-others can wait. The whole province-wide public works construction programme must be so timed that individual projects will be placed in an order of priority; the needed projects will have to be proceeded with as soon as manpower and material are available. Other projects should not be proceeded with unless there is a plentiful supply of manpower and material, for it would be absurd for the government to compete with private industry and thus create shortages and high prices.

In making our plans we must, insofar as it is possible, include a time element; that' is, we must decide when we are going to do these things, otherwise many of them will never be done. We have in many communities throughout Canada, very fine community plans which were made a number of years ago, but which have been forgotten. Had the communities at that time included a time element in their plans, the chances are they would have been carried into effect.

You will all recall what Russia did in this regard. She found it necessary to have five-year plans and to set definite goals to be accomplished in a definite period of time. When the five-year plans were announced, many of us thought that they were just slogans or catch phrases, but I think most of us now realize that the Russian method of planning and action certainly has accomplished results.

Just a final thought on the topic of community planning. The growth of all the cities of Ontario has been likened to the growth of a mature apple tree. The live and growing part of the tree is the outside layer, while the heart of the tree is dead and decaying. I think that is a very true comparison. If any of you have the gasoline to spare and take a drive around your city, you will find a fast growing fringe which is expanding into the agricultural areas and stretching up the highways as ribbon growth. It is not following any well laid out pattern, nor is there usually any provision for sewers, water, schools, roads, shopping areas or transportation. It is spreading out as fast as farms can be acquired and subdivided. This type of growth increases our transportation problems, draws people away from the centre of the city and causes a drop in property value and general deterioration in the old housing areas.

By suitable planning and zoning this could be reversed. The old areas in the heart of a city can be rejuvenated and developed into very desirable residential areas, but only if we adopt planning legislation which can guarantee stability to official or master plans.

These are some of the things which the town and community planners of this province are endeavouring to do and I would suggest a more charitable and less critical attitude until we really understand what they are trying to accomplish.


One, of the first activities of our Department after it was created last Spring was for the Minister and me to take a trip down to the Tennessee Valley to get a first-hand knowledge of what they have been able to accomplish in the way of flood control and conservation. It was a very profitable and inspirational trip.

The valley of the Tennessee River is almost as large as all the farming area of Southern Ontario. A great deal of it is being cultivated and since much of it is rolling land, with a heavy rainfall, the soil erosion has been so severe that the whole region was fast becoming impoverished. The people were becoming poorer and poorer. The ambitious ones left the country and those that stayed were fast losing hope. All this has now been reversed. Floods have been controlled; soil fertility is being restored; the general prosperity of the whole region is increasing and people have taken new hope for the future.

In Ontario the condition of our resources has not reached the low ebb that it did in Tennessee Valley. However, they are moving in that direction and we have done very little to check or prevent the deterioration that is taking place, and unless far-reaching measures are taken soon, this deterioration will continue at an accelerated rate.

In dealing with conservation in Ontario we must divide the province into three areas. In the first lies all the farming area of Southern Ontario. In the second lies the great forested area of Northern Ontario and in between these two lies a special area which extends from Georgian Bay to Pembroke and Kingston and which is sometimes referred to as the Cut Over area. The activities of our Department to date have been concerned only with Southern Ontario. The problems of Northern Ontario and the Cut Over area will receive our early attention.

In the agricultural areas of Southern Ontario a great deal of stock-taking has been done on conservation problems, so the task of our Department has been to gather together all the loose ends and to try and weave them into a definite co-ordinated conservation programme.

Such a programme for Southern Ontario will have to deal with soil erosion and proper land use, flood control and water supply, reforestation, fish and wild life. Stated in this manner these would appear to be a series of isolated problems, but this is not so. In the past we have developed our natural resources one at a time and, usually at the expense of two or three other resources. A proper conservation programme embraces the development of all the resources of an area in unison so that each one will contribute its quota to the general prosperity of the district.

Let us take a brief look at what has happened to some of the resources of Southern Ontario and what must be done to restore them. The early settlers began cutting down the trees and this has continued until today great areas are stripped bare of their forest cover. Much of the cleared area was suitable for agriculture and has been so used. Much of it, by the very nature of the soil and the topography, is entirely unsuitable to agriculture but people have attempted to farm it. Every spring when the snow melts, or every time there is a heavy rain storm in the summer, the water goes rushing over the sloping ground carrying with it much of the valuable topsoil and causing floods in the rivers. So severe has this wastage of land become in parts of Ontario that there are now hundreds of abandoned farms throughout the province and within fifty miles of where we are seated today can be seen areas that were once heavily forested in pine trees but are now wastes of shifting sand.

Let us not forget, gentlemen, that, the prosperity of this province depends upon the fertility of the top six inches of the agricultural soil. At one time North Africa was the granary of the Mediterranean area, but they abused their soil just as we are abusing ours. Today much of the once fertile North African country is now part of the Sahara Desert. While we do not necessarily predict desert conditions for this province, we do predict a very seriously impoverished nation unless we save the topsoil of the country.

It is a deeply rooted conviction throughout the agricultural world that poor land makes poor people. Today we see what is needed to correct these conditions. Soil surveys must be made to determine the characteristics of the soils of the province, then land use maps must be prepared which will indicate what each acre of land is best suited for. Some of it should be farmed, some of it should be in pasture, some of it should be in wood lots or wild land, and some of it could be best used by being converted into recreational areas.

However it is one thing to know the correct procedure, but quite another thing to get the land owners to adopt the new farming techniques which will be required.

Unless they are adopted the whole scheme fails, consequently an educational campaign is as essential as working out a proper conservation program.

Another important feature of a conservation program is the prevention of floods and assuring an adequate supply of water for domestic and industrial uses. Throughout Ontario, Spring floods are becoming a greater menace to the communities along the rivers year by year. The frequency of these floods and their severity, which has been increasing markedly in recent years, will continue to increase unless very definite steps are taken to prevent it.

The cause of these floods is apparent to anyone who will give it a moment's consideration. We have cut the trees off the watershed, we have drained the swamps, and the standard farming practice is to get the water off the fields as soon as possible in the Spring. These practices liberate a tremendous volume of water--so great that the river channel cannot accommodate it. The results are floods which cause great damage in the communities along the rivers and in addition wash away thousands of tons of valuable top soil. After the flood has gone the land dries up to such an extent that we suffer from droughts. This can be well illustrated by the situation that now exists in the South Nation River which drains a large part of Eastern Ontario. For the past twenty years the farmers of that area, aided by both the Federal and Provincial Governments, have been deepening the river channel and digging extensive drainage ditches so that more and more flat lying swamp area could be brought under cultivation. So successful have they been in disposing of the water in that area that now they are appealing to the Provincial Government to do something to restore the flow of water in the river, for it is not sufficient in the summer time to carry away the sewage of the communities on its banks.

The proper policy for dealing with the water which falls upon the land is to allow as much as possible to soak into the soil, where it constitutes a reservoir that can be drawn upon by plant growth or by wells. That part of the water which does not soak in must be allowed to run off in a gradual and orderly fashion so that it does no damage.

Reforestation will fill the double role of supplying us with valuable wood products and also aid in the control of the run off of the surface waters. It has been estimated that there are over 8,000 square miles in Southern Ontario that should be planted in trees. At the present rate of reforestation it will take approximately 800 years to accomplish the task. A very much more vigorous reforestation policy must be adopted.

The fish and wild life resources of Southern Ontario can be a very valuable asset, not only from the sporting angle but also for commercial fishing. Many of you can undoubtedly recall pleasant fishing holes, that you used to frequent in your youth, which have disappeared. There is no reason in the world why the wooded rivers and trout streams, you once knew, cannot be brought back in Southern Ontario.

There is hardly a river flowing into Lake Erie or Lake Ontario that does not flood in the Spring and dry up to a mere trickle during the Summer months. These rivers are the spawning grounds for many species of fish. But what chance have the young fry for survival in a river that is dry part of the year and when it is full of water is so polluted with silt, that the plankton on which these small fish live, cannot exist. Planting of fry is not the answer for there is little or no use putting fingerlings in an environment in which they cannot survive. Regulation of stream flow, erosion prevention, and a vigorous program of biological research are needed if our fisheries are to be restored.

I hope I have been able to demonstrate how interdependent the natural resources of Southern Ontario are and also how dependent the human beings are upon the proper development of the natural resources. Our Department is now engaged in a vigorous program to develop a suitable conservation policy for the Province and to educate the people of the Province to the needs and desirability of proper conservation practices.

Trade and Industry.

Another Branch of our Departmental activities is concerned with trade and industry. Already we have engaged an Industrial Engineer whose headquarters is at Queen's Park and in co-operation with Ontario House another industrial Engineer now has his headquarters in London, England. The services of the Industrial Engineer in Queen's Park are available to all industries or communities in Ontario in connection with any of their industrial problems. The Industrial Engineer in London is working in a similar capacity and his services are available to anyone interested in European markets or who may be interested in making connections with European manufacturers for the Ontario market. Furthermore, if industries in Europe wish to move out to Ontario or to establish branch factories in this Province, they will be given every encouragement and assistance through the offices of our Industrial Engineers.

I have endeavoured to give you a thumbnail sketch of the chief activities of our Department in the first eight months of its existence. There are other great problems ahead which we must tackle at the earliest possible moment and we will do so just as soon as the branches that we have already established are on a working basis and just as soon as we can secure properly qualified personnel to undertake these problems.

In closing I would like to say a word or two concerning the urgency of a much more vigorous planning campaign in Ontario than we have had to date. Our Department has just completed a survey of the extent of the planning that has been done for postwar public works construction projects 'throughout the Province by Municipal Governments. As you are all aware, the newspapers have carried many articles in the past year concerning the plans that municipalities had in this regard. We were anxious to know just what had been accomplished. So we sent out a questionnaire in which they were to state the plans which were just in the "idea" stage, those on which preliminary engineering studies had been made, those for which finished plans were being made, and those for which the plans had been completed and for which tenders could be called in thirty to sixty days.

I am sorry to have to report that the bulk of the plans for public works projects in this Province are still in the "idea" stage. Some have had preliminary engineering studies made; a very few are having complete plans made for them and for practically none have plans been completed. Unless we move ahead vigorously and boldly in completing our plans, the war will be over and the men and women returning in large numbers, and we will not have any plans completed for the public works construction projects on which we may have to depend for employment in the postwar era. What shall we say to the men and women who come back and want jobs? Shall we say to them "We have been thinking about you, but we really have no plans made for what we are going to do to find you jobs?"

These young men and women went overseas to fight our battle for us. We made many fine sounding promises to them when they left. We were going to create a Canada that would be worth the sacrifices which they are making. We were going to create a Canada in which there would be an opportunity for everyone to earn a respectable living. Just think back a minute and recall how outspoken we were when danger, threatened and we needed volunteers to protect us, and at the same time think how little we have done to implement our pledges. We are expecting the governments to do this for us, but unfortunately Government Bureaux cannot accept the whole responsibility. The best that the Government can do is to help you to implement your plans and to make it possible for you to do the things which you consider best and necessary. The people of the Province have a joint responsibility with their Governments.

If we make up our mind to it and the people and the Government work in unison, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish in this Province of ours, but if we continue to go ahead as we did before the war, each one concerned primarily with his own selfish interests, the postwar world will be little different from the pre-war world.

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Ontario's Postwar Planning Needs

The definition and nature of planning. Some well-defined steps to planning. The joint responsibility of citizens and government. The necessity for co-operation between the people of the Province and the Government. The creation of this Department of Planning and Development by an Act of the Legislature in 1944. Duties as outlined in the Act. Tasks as evolved, and current activities: rehabilitation and re-establishment of men and women from the Armed Forces; town and community planning; conservation; trade and industry. Other divisions to be formed as the necessity arises. An outline of the mean features of each task. The urgency for a much more vigorous planning campaign in Ontario. The completion and results of a survey of the extent of the planning that has been done for postwar public works construction projects throughout the Province by Municipal Governments. The bulk of the projects still in the "idea" stage. What needs to be done immediately.