- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 18 Mar 1937, p. 274-288
- Bruce, The Honourable Herbert A., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Toronto men living in caves in the Don Valley just three years ago. Inadequate shelter in Toronto. The increasing demand for houses at a low rental, and reasons for it. Expected demands for additional dwellings within the reach of the lower grades of wage earners each year for the next four or five years. Difficulties in supply. Expected diminution of the relief burden in all its forms, and reasons for that. The need for the appointment of a separate and independent authority working on behalf of the city and as an agent for the city both in an advisory capacity and also in an administrative capacity with regard to the determination of areas of development. The requirement of a state subsidy for housing. Financial support, with calculations based on the Ganong Report given in the House of Commons in 1935. Figures and statistics on housing needed, and costs to supply them. The need for a state subsidy supplemented by provincial and municipal subsidies. Details as to how this can be arranged and actually accomplished. A look at what was done in King City outside Toronto. Lessening the huge amounts of public money now being poured out in relief through housing schemes. What effect housing might be expected to have on the relief expenditure in Toronto, with dollar figures. A look at a similar plan in the United States. Congratulations to those involved in the Provincial Government's scheme for housing being carried out with the enthusiastic co-operation of municipal councils, as is being done in Scarborough. The refusal by The City of Toronto by St. James Cathedral of property on which could be built some 41 houses. Wondering at the hesitations and vacillations of many people who so patiently endure the wrongs that others have to bear. The possibilities for home building on a large Dominion-wide scale. The purpose of The Housing Centre. A comparison of caves and the cave man with slums and slum dwellings. Remembering the efforts of civilization.
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- 18 Mar 1937
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- Full Text
- CIVILIZATION AND THE CAVE MAN
AN ADDRESS BY COL. THE HON. HERBERT A. BRUCE, M.D., LT. GOVERNOR OF ONTARIO
Thursday, 18th March, 1937
PRESIDENT BALFOUR: May it please Your Honour, the constitution of the Empire Club demands today something in the nature of a business meeting which will take a very few moments, before we are on the broadcast. This business we have in hand is the appointment of the Committee for the purpose of nominating officers for the ensuing year. I therefore would be pleased now to have any suggestions for these nominations.
CAPT. CAMERON: Mr. President, may I present the following names to form the Committee for nominating the officers and Executive Committee for the ensuing year:
Mr. F. B. Fetherstonhaugh, K.C., Mr. J. F. M. Stewart,
Dr. E. Clouse,
Mr. George D. Davis, Mr. W. M. Hargraft, Mr. L. Junkin,
The President, Mr. G. Balfour and the Hon. Secretary, Mr. H. F. Powell, will be ex-officio, members of this committee.
MR. G. BISHOP: I have pleasure in seconding the motion.
CHAIRMAN: Any further nominations? If not, I declare the following gentlemen elected by acclamation.
(Specified list above.)
CHAIRMAN: Gentlemen, we are doubly honoured at this meeting by the attendance of His Honour, the Lt. Governor, and the Honourable the Chief Justice of Ontario. We have had in this Club in the past, visits from His Honour, both formal and informal, and have always derived great pleasure and benefit from them. This is the first occasion on which we have had a visit from the Chief Justice of Ontario since his appointment to that high office, (Applause) an appointment which I might say is the pride of the Bench, the satisfaction of the bar and to the everlasting credit of the Government of the Dominion of Canada.
It is peculiarly fitting that the visit of the Chief justice of Ontario should coincide with the visit of His Honour the Lt. Governor. As you all know the Chief justice acts for the Lt. Governor in his absence, and had by any chance the Lt. Governor not been able to address us today, we would have been quite ready to accept this substitute. In fact, I had almost thought of stooping to a subterfuge in order to get the Chief justice to address us by such connivance with His Honour.
I also welcome to our head-table among our distinguished guests, other justices of the Supreme Court, the Honourable Mr. Justice Masten and the Honourable Mr. Justice Henderson. We much too rarely have visits from the judiciary, and I might say publicly now they are always welcome and will find a seat at the head table. (Applause.)
We are now to have the honour of hearing an address by Col. The Hon. Herbert Alexander Bruce, the Lt. Governor of Ontario. The subject will be more lucid after he begins than it may be to some now, "Civilization and the Cave Man." Your Honour!
COL. THE Horn. HERBERT A. BRUCE, Lt.-Governor of Ontario
Mr. Chairman, Your Lordships, Distinguished Guests, Gentlemen: I am very happy on this occasion to know that the Chief Justice of Ontario has made his first official visit to this Club and done me the honour of coming here on the occasion when I am to give an address. I would like to say that I join in supporting all the kind words which you have said, Sir, in regard to the present Chief Justice of Ontario.
Three years ago at a Centennial luncheon I had the temerity to mention that there were slums in Toronto. A few months earlier men had been discovered in the Don Valley which runs through the heart of this modern city. What were they doing there? Living in caves--caves dug with their own hands out of the sides of the valley. The choice between slums and vile housing on the one hand and caves on the other had been decided in favour of caves. Better to be a caveman than a slum dweller in Toronto. Some of those men were veterans of the Great War. The time has passed when it would have been necessary to speak of the necessity of slum clearance and housing.
It is admitted on all sides that a large number of families, for the most part of British stock, are inadequately sheltered in this City and compelled to live under conditions which make a healthy homelife impossible. These families are almost certainly little short in number of three thousand. In addition there are a number of families scattered over the city living in dwellings which militate against standards of health and morality. There are no exact figures of the numbers here, but the cumulative evidence points to a much larger number than is sometimes suspected, owing particularly to the doubling up of families which still exists in some thousands of cases and to the fact that in many hundreds of instances, families have to take in lodgers in order to supplement their resources. It must also be borne in mind that the demand for houses art a low rental will certainly increase in the near future, not merely because of the natural increase of the city's population, but because better times mean that families who have hitherto been compelled to share their homes with others will now be in a position to maintain separate dwelling units. On the whole, it seems reasonable to expect that the city will need an additional 2 or 3 thousand dwellings within the reach of the lower grades of wage earners each year for the next four or five years.
The supply of these dwellings raises obvious difficulties which should be fearlessly faced by all good citizens. In the first pace, money must be expended on the demolition of the unfit dwellings, involving in some cases some compensation to the owners. The land must be purchased and laid out with a view to re-housing at least the same number of people as have been displaced. The rising standard now required for health and efficiency in connection with the housing of the people must be met. It must be borne in mind that this standard inevitably rises as the culture and prosperity of the city increases and plans must be made today for building dwellings which will place a high standard twenty or thirty years hence. There is also the effect on neighbouring property and the claims of property owners to be considered. Possibilities of unfair competition with dwellings offered for rent in neighbouring streets must be avoided. It is not likely that the neighbouring properties will be depreciated in value by an improvement of the worst streets close to them; they are more likely to rise in value. But there is always some danger of inflicting temporary hardship on the owners of property of this character. Problems of planning and supervision and later of administration also present themselves and must be faced in a liberal spirit. There are certain principles which appear to be supported by practically a universal experience in connection with all these problems. In the first place, the immediate expenditures should be shared by the governments responsible for the country and province and city, respectively, and not laid as a burden upon any one. The cities are usually called upon to make certain initial sacrifices, often in the way of remission of taxes and some-. times by loans of money at a cheap rate in order to facilitate the additional building. At the same time, the burden which will fall upon the taxpayers will be, unquestionably, offset by gains which will become more and more obvious in the future. There will be an immediate diminution of the relief burden in all its forms including the heavy relief of unnecessary sickness, due, on the one hand, to improved employment among many of the persons concerned and, on the other, to the improvement of the health and morale of the families housed. Experience seems to have shown that no form of public works is so remunerative and so effective in its direct results as expenditure upon housing. It is found that when once begun the movement for improving the structural conditions, where such improvement is most needed, leads on inevitably to an improvement all through the city and to additional building in districts not directly concerned. For reasons which have not yet been fully discovered, this particular form of activity appears to be in a sense infectious and also cumulative in the benefits which accompany it.
The difficulties connected with the determination of areas to be dealt with, of plans for their reconstruction, for developments of all sorts and for the supervision of any streets or building constructed, requires in all probability the appointment of a separate and independent authority working on behalf of the city and as an agent for the city both in an advisory capacity and also in an administrative capacity to some extent, but of course without the power of control over expenditures. Part of the work to be done can be begun without any appreciable delay caused by the necessity of drawing up careful plans, but if the necessary work is to proceed far, it is imperative that there should be careful scrutiny of the needs of the city as a whole and the most economical and beneficial ways of meeting those needs. Any authority proposed should, of course, use the advisory experts both within and without the governments concerned in order to arrive at these plans.
After all, this most important business of housing is a state matter. It will occasion no surprise therefore if I mention as the very first requirement a state subsidy. I know that the Hon. Mr. Dunning, our Minister of Finance, had no illusions on this score for when I was speaking on this subject in Ottawa he asked me about money. "How much would it all cost?" That was surely the most natural of all questions to ask. I was not then prepared to make a detailed reply. Today, however, thanks to the co-operation of my Housing Committee I can be more specific and deal more directly with the financial aspects of this all-important matter. You will find that these proposals are but an extension of those already embodied in the Report of our Committee on diving conditions in Toronto, made some three years ago.
This time however we base our calculations on the Ganong Report given, in the House of Commons in 1935. In Canada the shortage of houses or dwelling units, as they were called, was then rising at the rate of 27,500 a year and had already reached the grand total of 82,000, those principally affected being of course the lowest wage earners.
That briefly means that today at a low estimate we need at least 137,000 houses if slum conditions of overcrowding are to be avoided. Suppose, for the sake of convenience we say that 100,000 residential houses are needed for the low income groups. What will be the cost of each house? It has been calculated that a house fulfilling all the requirements of hygiene etc. for an average sized family need cost no more than $2,500 on a $200 plot of land. Multiplying we get a grand sum of $250,000,000. That, you will admit, is not a bad beginning. In case any of us are inclined to be staggered by the enormity of a sum which is after all but a minimum requirement, we can quickly recover our balance by thinking of the terrible waste of life, through unemployment and crime and ill health and distress of all kinds which that $250,000,000 would in great part off-set.
Nevertheless and in the economic nature of things such humanitarian considerations cannot be entered as ponderable assets in the ledgers of private builders and contractors. Indeed from a strictly commercial point of view, they could only be entered in red ink and underlined as liabilities which would soon put a private building firm out of business. No, the building of commercially profitable homes for the lower income groups demands, first of all, a state subsidy supplemented by provincial and municipal subsidies. I will try to show as cleanly as -possible how this can be arranged and actually accomplished.
The economic rent of a $2500 house would be $24 a month. Now the reason why subsidies are absolutely necessary is briefly that the low wage earner can, on an average, pay no more than $15 a month. The difference between that and $24 a month must be met by a State fund to which the Federal, Provincial and Municipal Governments contribute. Once the scale of the contribution is arranged, and not until then, will this necessary Dominion-wide onslaught upon poor housing, slums, and all that is detrimental to us as civilized people, become possible.
Now if the State would contribute as a maximum annual subsidy the sum of $5,000,000 there appears to be no reason why the same amount should not be contributed by Provincial and Municipal Governments together and in co-operation. That would be an annual subsidy of $10,000,000 in all. A $2,500 house can be constructed for an annual subsidy of $100. An annual subsidy of $10; 000,000 would therefore make possible the construction of 100,000 houses. And that number of houses is the minimum requirement to make up our present and increasing housing shortage.
I need only add that if the private builders are to get the greatest commercial benefits from the operations of this scheme, then the building must be on a large scale. Whole blocks of new houses, 100 or 1000 at the same place and at the same time must be erected, anal not costly and sporadic substitution of new houses for old in isolated places at diverse times. Then for the first time in the history of Canada sufficient inducement will be offered a municipal or private housing corporation, to engage in the large scale erection of real homes for low wage earners. They will be assured of economic rents for every building by the tenants' own payments of rent, plus whatever contribution is necessary from the state fund. Can you imagine the vital, healthy stimulus such a scheme would give to employment?
If not, let us turn our attention abruptly away from these figures to some figures contained in a letter sent to me by the Rev. Father McGoey, in reply to a request of mine for information concerning King City on R. R. 1 outside this City of Toronto. You witness here a process of the regeneration of men and women and their families. In 1934 he started with five families, 38 people, on 10 acres of borrowed land. In 1935 these 5 families had 10 acres each and 15 more families were taken through their training year. In, 1936 some 15 families were placed on their 10 acres and 20 more families were taken through this training year. And now for the very meat of the matter. The saving to Toronto taxpayers has been $3,250; to York taxpayers $3,500; and to Federal and Provincial taxpayers $7,500, making a total of $14,250. More important still is the improvement in health conditions of the families, 240 people. In 1937 the maximum that may be necessary to care for them will be $5,000. Compare that with the $30,000 that would be necessary to keep them on relief in the cities.
I cannot imagine anyone who would withhold his admiration and praise for all that is being accomplished at King City--a small city with a big soul and amazing vision. I would have you notice how effectively it gives the lie to the base insinuation that those on relief have no desire to change their condition. With dwindling hopes they look forward to but one thing--the chance to make a living, the opportunity so persistently denied them to achieve independence for themselves and their families through the opportunity to work, and by their own labours to earn their own livelihood.
But that is not by any means all. Every taxpayer sits up and gives his most enthusiastic attention and support to any scheme which would seem to lighten the burden of taxation. Or to state the matter more directly: is there any reason to believe that such a housing scheme as I have outlined would succeed in lessening the huge amounts of public money now being poured out in relief-and poured out without any return other than the satisfaction of knowing that citizens are not being permitted to starve?
It is not in the least derogatory to human nature to say that even when discussing a matter even of such national importance as housing, it is wiser always to present it in terms of enlightened, practical self-interest, thane in those that are merely humanitarian and theoretical. We don't like setting sail on unchartered seas even though they are painted for our delectation in the most enchanting shades of aquamarine and rose. We want to know where we are going, even though we are vociferously assured, that the voyage will be of the greatest advantage to our collective health and happiness, as communities of people seeking a better life.
A member of my committee recently and very truly remarked "So long as people in general and business men in particular flatly refuse to contemplate anything which appears merely to add to the tax burden, we have no hope of influencing them." To this the silence of wholehearted agreement was the only reply I could make.
Let us see then as accurately as is possible in a very brief consideration of the subject what effect housing might be expected to have on the relief expenditure here in Toronto. At a rough estimate the city is paying an average relief rental of $10 per month for some 9,000 families. Suppose the city undertook to build new dwellings for 2,000 families each year for the next five years. That would mean 10,000 houses for low wage earners--enough to house all the families for whom rent is now being paid. Even if the city received no rent from these houses-and that is rather afar-fetched supposition-it would at any rate save about $10 a month on each family thus housed. If, as we have every reason to expect, the relief situation improved, the city would be in an even better position. It would be able to charge rents higher than the average $10 per month estimated for relief families. What are called economic rents, covering all cost, would then be possible in all cases, bearing in mind that there would be also the housing subsidies to which I have already alluded.
At this very time money is going into relief at the rate of between $400,000 and $500,000 a month. That is, let us say, at a conservative estimate $5,000,000 a year in relief. No wheels are set in motion by this. Nothing productive is done. It does not stimulate employment. And yet a housing programme would most certainly save a part of this relief bill together with a part of the rent bill which I mentioned a moment ago. If, taking the very lowest estimate, every house that was built during one year gave employment to one man during one year, arid half the men employed were previously unemployed; or suppose the same number would obtain; employment either in construction or in taking the places of those who would be brought into construction, this would mean that the city would save the relief of 1,000 families every year during the 5 years during which the building programme continued. This is the lowest possible estimate. At the end of it all there would be something to show for the money expended, something accomplished.
Every, idle man re-employed, every man who is taken off a relief roll and placed on a payroll favourably affects the economic life of a nation. Multiply the one individual by thousands and the effect is profound and far reaching. The building industry represents tremendous purchasing power and the majority of building workmen are, skilled workmen. Employed, they immediately become purchasers of all types of goods. Once given something constructive to- do their renewed purchasing power revives all markets. Of every dollar spent on building, 75 cents goes to labour on the job and to labour engaged in the production and transportation of materials.
In the United States a plan similar to our Home Improvement Program has been in operation for over two years. I wonder how many of us know that they have found that out of every $4.00 spent on home improvement $1.00 was actually borrowed.
Coming much nearer home, I was most happy to have had the privilege last week of opening the first house built under the Provincial Government's scheme being carried out with the enthusiastic co-operation of neighbouring municipal councils. That was in Scarboro. I am delighted to know that 14 more houses are nearing completion; and most heartily congratulate the Prime Minister and Mr. Croll on the recent announcement that 500 more houses will be built throughout this Province during the coming summer. Thus does a great work go forward.
Indeed to recognize--not only the urgency of the housing problem but also the incalculable benefits of rehousing schemes, makes one wonder at the hesitations and vacillations of many people, who so patiently endure the wrongs that others have to bear.
On June 9th last a luncheon was given to the Mayor of Liverpool then visiting Toronto. At that luncheon I was authorized by St. James Cathedral to offer this City certain property on which could be built some 41 houses. The City of Toronto refused the gift. It would no doubt have been embarrassing to do otherwise, since acceptance of the gift would mean that something would have had to be done about housing.
It may be apposite to remark that the Archdeacon Gower-Rees in the course of a most moving sermon at St. Paul's last Sunday, had many pungent things to say about slums and the attitude toward them of citizens and of those in authority. That attitude is one of complete apathy and indifference. He compared it to the action of Pontius Pilate who you remember washed his hands of all responsibility and said "See ye to it." It is the kind of action which was described in the frankest terms in the Army and is, I believe, still referred to as "passing the buck." As a policy it is evasive, shiftless and completely futile. It is compounded of cowardice and self-seeking. It is in part the blindness of the Queen who hearing that her citizens cried aloud for bread replied "Let them eat cake." It is in part also the narrow, selfish complacency of the man, who, hearing of these things, shrugs his shoulders and says, "Oh well it will last our time and we should worry."
I would suggest therefore that the congregation of St. James Cathedral whose magnificent gift was refused might study what has been done at St. Pancras in London. That great slum clearance and rehousing scheme was started by a young Anglican minister, the Rev. Jellicoe. He formed a company on strict business lines .and the story of what has been accomplished is one of inspiring success. I wonder if St. James Cathedral, the first and only church here 100 years ago, might again be first in leading the way by forming a Company of the same type having the same noble aim-slum clearance and the rehousing of our citizens.
And now I approach the end of what I have bad to say to you. I have tried to set before you in concrete terms suggested solutions to a tremendously important problem which we must solve or perchance it will be solved for us by those who will not forever endure remediable distress which delinquent authority refuses to remedy.
It is knowledge of the stimulating effect of housing activity one all employment that is behind the Home Improvement Plan so ably conceived by Mr. Arthur Purvis and being so successfully put into execution in this province by Mr. Ryland New and his Executive Committee. The Home Improvement Plan simply illustrates on a smaller scale how generally this is recognized. And if this Plan is in fact creating employment how much greater would be the stimulus to employment if in addition to home improvement we were to have home building on a large Dominion-wide scale?
I have laid before you what I believe are the objectives toward which we should strive and I would like to remind you that it is to help in achieving these aims that the Toronto Housing Centre exists. What does the Housing Centre seek to do? Briefly, its purpose is to impress upon citizens and civic authorities the urgent need of housing for the most needy and defenceless families: the damage of neglect which allows unwholesome conditions to exist and spread: the necessity of purposeful planning for the healthy growth of this city: and, generally, the urgent importance of securing for every family an adequate and healthy home.
The members of the Housing Centre are in favor of subsidizing low cost housing and slum clearance. They are opposed to any piecemeal building or rebuilding of dwellings in any part of the city without careful consideration of the present and future needs of each district as a whole and of the entire city as a unit. They believe that the carrying out of these aims would provide widespread employment, lessen the burden of relief, and improve the health and morale of the many, many families who are now depressed and weakened by the conditions under which they live. You will notice, therefore, that what I have said today might be termed a plan of action by which these necessary, these superlatively important objectives can be achieved.
I sometimes think that the very first symptom of decay in a nation as in an individual is self-satisfaction. That is death to the spirit. And as long as slums endure and increase, as long as the housing problem awaits solution we have no reason whatever to congratulate ourselves.
The spirit of Canada is a confident, youthful spirit. But it is not enough that young nations like young men should dream dreams. To have been proud of one's youth will be but poor consolation if the years to come bring with them the frustration through neglect of youthful hopes and ambitions. If all that so urgently needs doing today is left undone, then the price we shall pay will yet be one that exceeds our direst imaginings. The full weight of responsibility for what is and what shall be, falls upon us. It is a responsibility not to be discharged by endless, futile discussions but only by immediate purposeful action undertaken with a will.
We who as a nation pride ourselves--I know not how rightly--upon our youth and freedom have even now before us the examples of older countries like Great Britain and Sweden--examples of all that can be accomplished once we bravely determine that the primitive, distressful, cavelike and never-to-be-tolerated conditions of living in slums, shall not continue to infest and undermine and damage irreparably, our own civilized Canadian communities.
Caves and the cave man. Slums and the slum dwellers. Wherein lies the difference in their conditions of life? Hardships are the same in all ages: the passing of centuries does not make them easier to endure or man better able to endure them.
The cave man of old was, if you will, a victim of circumstances struggling to better himself against conditions that were not of his making. And civilization itself is surely nothing more than a purposeful improvement of the conditions in which men live: a steady upbuilding of the health of mind and body and spirit through intelligently organized human effort.
Let that effort be made now. Let us begin. For, in the never-to-be-forgotten words of the Citizen's Housing Committee of Halifax, "It is not a question whether we shall pay or shall not pay. It is a question whether we shall pay blindly or intelligently, whether we shall pay for better housing or for the damage done by that which is worse. Housing of the poor we are going to provide. Let us make no mistake about that. It is only a question whether we shall house them in hospitals, mental institutions, reformatories and jails, or whether we shall house them in cleanly, light and sanitary surroundings where both body and, soul will have a chance. Which shall it be.
PRESIDENT BALFOUR: Your Honour, may I express on behalf of all within the sound of our voice our thanks for this analysis of the Housing Problem, for the suggestion, of remedies, and for the suggestion of the collateral advantages which would accrue from the application of them. May I also voice on behalf of not only the Province of Ontario but the whole of the Dominion of Canada, our appreciation of the use you are making of your high office in giving leadership to this and other sociological problems of the country. I consider it will rebound to the benefit not only of those now living but to the whole of the prosperity of this country,
I thank you very much. (Applause.)