June 2, 1921

UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Oh, yes, the chairman tells me it was.

Topic:   RETURNED SOLDIERS' INSURANCE ACT
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L LIB

John Howard Sinclair

Laurier Liberal

Mr. SINCLAIR (Guysborough):

I do

not think my right hon. friend understands my position with regard to this matter. The men to whom I refer were voluntarily serving their country in the Canadian Merchant Marine. They were not forced into the service; they were in the same position as members of the military forces, except that they were not under the jurisdiction of military officers. I submit that no fair distinctions can be made between these classes. The men who worked on the ships of the mercantile marine were volunteers like the others; they were working for the same purpose and to the same end, and they certainly have the same rights as the men who were serving in the Canadian navy.

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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Could not the men in the mercantile marine leave that service any time they wished? Were they not there because that was the job they were best suited for? Were they bound to stay?

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L LIB

John Howard Sinclair

Laurier Liberal

Mr. SINCLAIR (Guysborough) :

I think they were. The Admiralty made very careful inquiries about the men whom they took into the mercantile marine; they had to find out all about their pedigree, whether they were British subjects, and so on; they did not allow them to come and go just as they pleased. The men were bound to stay on their ships.

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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The same precautions were taken in regard to men working in the Militia Department, but they did not have to stay there.

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Title agreed to. Bill reported, read the third time and passed.


PENSION ACT AMENDMENT


On motion of Right Hon,. Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister), Bill No. 223, to amend the Pension Act, was read the second time, and the House went into committee thereon, Mr. Steele in the Chair.


UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Mr. Chairman, I desire at this stage to make a very brief statement with regard to the returned soldier problem as a whole, and with relation particularly to the report of the committee of this session on pensions, insurance and reestablishment. Three sessions ago the House adopted the policy of referring the general question of re-establishment of our returned men, in all its wide and varied phases, to a special committee composed of members respecting all parties. That committee has had the power and the duty of summoning before it advocates of every kind of assistance that has been urged upon us, of weighing the evidence adduced, gathering from the various departments and from every possible source all the information required for intelligent judgment, and of then reporting to the House what in all the many and difficult circumstances surrounding us should be recommended to Parliament for adoption. I am bound to say that if Parliament has ever been indebted to committees of one class more than another it has been to the special committees on re-establishment so appointed from session to session. The first committee, I believe, was under the chairmanship of the hon. the Minister of Immigration and Colonization (Mr. Calder). To that committee were assigned duties of extraordinary difficulty, because at that time we had not had the experience or the extent of information which later became available; and the problems that then confronted us, the difficulties that we had to surmount, were even greater then than they have been since. That committee's report became almost immediately embodied in the law of the land, and I think we owe to that committee, for the hard work done by its members and the devotion to duty that was manifested, a very deep and lasting debt of gratitude. The subsequent committees have been under the charge of the hon. member for London (Mr. Cronyn). I am sure I echo the sentiments of all hon. members when I say that these two committees have lived up to the examples shown them by the first; that having regard to the extent of the assistance they have

been able to give and the good judgment they have used, the House owes to these committees the same debt of gratitude that it does to the first. It is to the credit of members of the committee, coming as they did from the various parties in the House, that they have been able, after hearing the evidence on all sides, to agree as regards what could be done. Great service has been rendered to the country by these special committees, and it was a fortunate thing that that plan of dealing with this very complicated and delicate subject was adopted-fortunate for the returned men as well as for Parliament and the country generally.

The report of this session summarizes the efforts which have been made to assist those who served so faithfully in the war, and shows what has been accomplished in the very difficult task of re-establishment. That task has been even more difficult than we had anticipated. At this time, after all the efforts that have been made, after the vast expenditures that have been devoted to the purpose, and all the care that has been exercised to see that these expenditures were along right and proper lines and that value was obtained for the money spent,- after all that, we cannot say that we do not find very considerable unemployment; that we do not find many among even the most deserving of our returned men who are still in a condition not at all satisfactory. We know, however, no matter how perfect our work, no matter how devotedly we give ourselves to it, that these consequences are inevitable. Our duty is to reduce the measure of that condition to the narrowest limits possible, and, as years go by, only by persisting in the work, by seeking improvement, by an unflagging spirit of generosity and an increasing effort to put generosity into practice, can we hope to attain the end that all Canadians of every party and every race desire shall be attained as regards these men.

The report of this session, after summarizing what has been done and the lines of work in which we are now engaged, recommends that substantial extensions be made and very material expenditures still provided in order that we may perform our task. The first recommendation is to the effect that, commencing September next, the scale of increased pensions be paid, not only to those residing in this country, but also to those residing in other countries. That involves an expenditure of about $650,000 per annum beyond previous expenditures. There are two other recom-

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REVISED EDITION. COMMONS


mendations that involve an annual outlay of, I think, $31,100. The report also makes extensions in the application of certain laws now in force, which extensions will undoubtedly involve us in extra expenditure. Then it goes on to provide that we shall extend the housing programme or policy adopted some two years ago and lay more money at the disposal of the provinces for use in house construction. It has been deemed wise on the part of the Government to recommend to Parliament compliance, in toto, with the report of the committee in these respects. I am sure the recommendations of the Government, embodied as they are in the Bill that has just been passed, the Bill now under consideration, and another Bill having to do with disabled men and the public, that was before the House yesterday, and, reflected in the Estimates that are still to come before the Committee of the Whole-I am sure the recommendations of the Government, following the report of the committee, will be favourably received by the House generally and by the country. I want to make reference just here to certain considerations that, I hope, will be kept in mind by the citizens of Canada generally, but particularly by the returned men themselves. They have to do especially with a very insistent demand that, for purposes of relief of unemployment, of giving work to men who are now out of work, this Government should engage directly in a programme of house construction throughout Canada. It was strongly urged before the committee that we should follow, in the matter of construction of houses the same policy as was followed in the matter of placing returned men on the land; that loans should be provided through a Settlement Board on a certain basis of security, and that $50,000,000 should be set aside in order to launch that enterprise. I want to draw this consideration to the attention of Parliament and particularly to that of the returned men. It is not strict economy; it is not reasonable assistance, bringing results commensurate with costs or anything like it, to enter upon programmes of construction merely or mainly for the sake of employment. To do so may relieve for a short time, but it only arrests the necessary process of deflation. It only artificially sustains a situation which, as long as it is sustained, merely postpones the sufferings incident to deflation, which, in some form or another, must come before normal conditions return. If we enter upon a programme of house construction directly under this Government, operating thousands of miles from the centre, lending money for purposes of construction, then I apprehend the tendency will be, by that very act, to sustain a level of prices of commodities entering into building operations, which, in the end, will prevent building operations rather than encourage them at the hands of private enterprise. That that result would ensue, there can be no doubt whatever; and because building for the sake of use is bound to come in any event-because it will pay-and because the advocated building is for the sake of employment rather than for the sake of use, I think it would be bound to result in there being left upon the hands of the Government, later on, the houses thus constructed. They could not be paid for because of conditions that were only postponed, that were merely alleviated by the programme, but that inevitably had to come. Those conditions having come, the men would find themselves utterly unable to pay for the houses after they were built. I lay these considerations before the committee for what they are worth. I do not think this plan would afford more than a palliative, if a programme were entered upon such as is urged upon us. We would not have a cure; we would have simply a palliative; a palliative that would soor be at an end, the evil remaining and probably more formidable than ever. It is true that there is need for more' houses in this country at the present time, and I do not think we should regret that fact. It indicates that our population is probably advancing, and that the census returns may show results not disappointing. That that condition is a fact, I do not dispute; but in carrying on work of the kind suggested, we must insist upon the principle of local responsibility in so far as this Government assists at all. So long as you insist upon a principle of local responsibility, you place that check upon the promotion of expenditure that is essential if expenditure is to be sanely and wisely made. While you have local responsibility which the provinces may insist upon; while, in a word, you adopt the principle of lending money to the provinces -and the provinces working through municipalities, the municipalities see to it that houses are built, not purely, even not mainly, for the sake of employment, but upon sound, sensible principles-because the houses are needed, because they will be used and paid for. Consequently, I think the committee has been wise in recommending, as it has done, that we proceed, not upon new lines, but upon the lines that we have followed in years gone by. If the House sees fit to vote the money, we put at the disposal of the provinces certain further advances to be used by them for purposes of house construction. Let me repeat. Under that system the provinces are enabled to secure the responsibility of municipalities, and such local supervision as necessarily results, and there is no reason to apprehend that under those conditions there will be anything in the way of foolish or unjustifiable expenditure. Consequently, in the Estimates for this year, there will be found the sum of $12,000,000 for this purpose. The committee will recall that the appropriation originally was $25,000,000. Of that, approximately $15,000,000 has been expended by the provinces, leaving a little over $10,000,000 unexpended. That $10,000,000 is now available, and the Government has decided to adopt the principle of adding 25 per cent to what may be obtained by any province in Canada over the amount allotted under the previous appropriation, and to put in the Estimates this year such amount as they deem might be required by the provinces for the purpose aforesaid; that is to say, while there will be made available $6,250,000, being 25 per cent of the $25,000,000 already appropriated, there will not be required this year the entire balance, the entire balance being $16,250,000, that is to say, the $10,000,000 odd that remains unexpended of the original appropriation and the $6,250,000, being 25 per cent, of the original appropriation. There will be required this year, we think, not more than $12,000,000. Consequently, in the Estimates will be found an item of $12,000,000 in order to implement the recommendation in that respect contained in the report of the special committee. In this regard I feel I should call attention to the special work done by the Department of Labour,-pursuant to the report of a previous special committee, in re-establishment, and in co-operation with the provinces,-of employment offices throughout this country. Those employment offices have been able to find situations for very, very many returned men. They work in co-operation with the Reestablishment Department, and I believe that the number that they have actually placed in work now exceeds 200,000. There has also been appointed under legislation a National Advisory Council, and that council, conferring as it does with the Department of Labour, has assisted very materially in helping labour conditions throughout this country, and especially in providing for the movement from place to place of returned men as well as others, thereby enlarging the area of employment. That we have unemployment in this country to-day is doubtless true; that we have unemployment above the average in this country, and too far above the average, is doubtless true; and that there is suffering as a result no one can deny. But we cannot keep out of mind this fact; that under conditions of deflation, which necessarily follow any period of inflation, under conditions of returning to lower levels of values, there is bound to be, and always has been, unemployment. To-day it is a world-wide condition, by no means confined to this country, nor do I think there is any country in the world where the per capita unemployment is less than in Canada to-day. Certainly there was no country where it was anything like so small, proportionately to population, as it was in Canada last winter. In Great Britain at this time, aside entirely from the effects of the strike, the percentage of unemployment far exceeds ours; it must be at least three or four times what it is here. In the United States it has exceeded ours, and if it does not exceed it now, it at least is equal to it. Consequently, by comparison, we have no reason to feel that conditions in this country in that regard are worse than anywhere else. Indeed, J think they are better than they are in any other industrial country in the world. Now the question comes as to what should be done as regards this problem. The Government adopted the course last winter of insisting on local responsibility as regards unemployment. We had been compelled during the war, and indeed, up to last winter, more or less to disregard that principle, but we thought the time had come to restore it; and consequently, against very great, indeed, against what one might almost call violent pressure, the Government did insist upon that principle once again. We decided on this course; that we would assist general unemployment only where the municipality primarily assumed the burden, put in organization, and itself assumed the duty of paying for the organization; and then, if the municipality took care of one-third of the cost, and the province in which the municipality was, took care of another third,



the Dominion would provide its third, a third entirely irrespective of the cost and expenditure of organization-we paid a third only of what the unemployed actually received. Under that policy we have expended some ..301,000 up to date, and it will probably take $60,000 more to pay the unsettled accounts. But the Dominion did not stop at ;that. It was urged very strongly upon us that we had special responsibility as regards unemployed disabled men. We had, of course, already recognized, like every other country in the world, our responsibility in respect of disabled men, and the pension law of this country as it now exists is the result; it is ,the reflection of the determination of the people of Canada as regards the disabled men. But it was felt that we could not stop there; that the disabled men being more liable to unemployment than others-although that feature was taken into account or is claimed to have been taken into account in fixing the pension for disability-still, the very fact that disabled men were out of employment was the subject of a cry of great sincerity to the Government, a cry to which we thought we could not turn a deaf ear. As a result, it was determined that we should assume the care of disabled men in receipt of pensions above a very, very small amount -I forget just what it was-wholly as a federal responsibility. The administration of that charge was placed in the hands, naturally, of the Department of Civil Reestablishment, and the discharge of that responsibility has cost up to date the sum of $842,403. In addition to that, there are outstanding claims that it is estimated will amount to $600,000, the total will not likely be less than $1,250,000. So much for the treatment of unemployment last winter and up till the present. I may add that our contribution toward general unemployment continues as long as the municipalities hold upon their own shoulders their responsibility. While they do so, we continue ours; when they cease, we cease. As regards the disabled, the help of the Department of Re-establishment has continued up till now. I know there are very grave objections to continuing it during such periods as last month, when climatic conditions were such as to render suffering of the worst kind not so likely, even if possible at all, but we have not felt justified in entirely ceasing that form of assistance. We hope that it will not be necessary to continue that much longer. We know that overdoing anything of that tMr. Meighen.] kind has a tendency to increase rather than to mitigate the evil. But we cannot dismiss from our minds the probability that in the coming winter there will be a very considerable burden in this respect. There are many who prophesy, after a survey of unemployment conditions in other lands, that we will probably have more unemployment next winter than this. I earnestly hope that will not be the case. I have reason to feel it will not be the case. I do not know that my judgment is of any special value, but there are signs that the period through which we have been passing is nearing an end. It commenced here somewhat later than in the great republic to the south. They had very considerably worse employment conditions last winter than had we. As we followed them in that regard-and, I presume it is a sort of economic necessity that we do that, they being so much vaster, and their momentum so much greater than ours-so, when the opposite process sets in, we probably shall follow them too; and the best information I can get is to the effect that in the United States business conditions are gradually improving and that unemployment conditions are likewise becoming better. If that keeps on, and there is no reason to think that it will not, there is every hope that by next winter, instead of being, as regards unemployment, in a worse condition than last winter, we ought to be, if we follow right lines, in a somewhat better condition; and from time to time we shall have the burden of the country in this matter gradually relieved. The attitude of the Government, I think, reflects the spirit of the Canadian people; it ought to reflect it^ I believe that the spirit of the Canadian people demands that we do not, in any sense whatever, abandon the care of the returned men. I know it is in their interests, as it is in the interests of the country; that the well and able man, who has no particular disability, ceases to regard himself as in a class apart, but that he consider himself once again a citizen like the rest of us, charged with the duty of battling his way in the world. But as respects him who is not in that class, who is in a more or less degree disabled, and who, although he may appear to be quite restored and just as good as other people, is nevertheless, on careful analysis, and after long experience, found to be really not so, it is the spirit of this country that we walk by his side from year to year, as we have done before, and that every possible inquiry and investigation shall be made in order that we may be certain, as time goes on, that no injustice is being done him. That reflects the spirit of the Canadian people; it is intended to state the general attitude of the Government; and I believe that the attitude of the Government is the general attitude of Parliament. My authority for that statement is the tenor of the reports of the various committees that have deliberated upon, and all phases of opinion that have concerned themselves with, this problem. The Bill that is now before, the committee has to do with pensions, and pensions alone, and I am sure it will be received with the same sympathetic and favourable consideration as that with which other Bills to the same end have been received.


UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. FIELDING:

It may be that here and there, in the remarks of my right hon. friend (Mr. Meighen) some points have been raised which will be regarded by some as matters of debate; but happily, in the main, what he has said we are able to concur' in very largely on this side. It is a gratifying fact, that so far as we have been able to go in our dealings with our returned men in the matters of pensions, the care of the sick, and so forth, there has been no division of opinion. All Canadians feel that everything that is possible should be done on behalf of these men and their dependents, and we share with the right hon. gentleman, in every respect, the desire he has expressed that they shall receive every possible consideration. I would particularly avail myself of the opportunity of renewing my expression of appreciation of the work that has been done by the committee which has handled this question for the last three years. It is a very pleasing fact that while, on many questions, we differ in Parliament, as is inevitable, in this matter there has been a unanimity of opinion from the beginning. Members on both sides of the House who have sat on the committee have vied with one another to do the best they could. We all know the obligations we owe to the committee of the present year, and it is no injustice to other members of the committee if we speak particularly of the services rendered by my hon. friend the member for London (Mr. Cronyn). He has given us the most valuable service, and I do not know of any other branch of the public service in which he could have rendered more useful assistance. The hon. member stated the other day that his constituency had been almost unrepresented because he had given so much of

his time to this particular work. I am sure the constituency will make due allowance for that, and will fully appreciate the good work he has done. If there be any difference at all, it will be that 5 p.m. some of the keenest friends of the returned men-and we all wish to be numbered among them-would wish that something further could be done for them. Well, we may all sympathize with that desire; but J believe that in the various provincial governments and local authorities, to which reference has been made, and even among the returned men themselves, there will be a feeling that, while all that the soldiers may desire may not have been done, all concerned, all have been willing to approach the question with consideration, as shown by the fact that this matter has been studied from year to year by competent members of the House who have served on the committee without any party end in view, and with the single desire to reach a sound conclusion. And though, in some respects, disappointment may be felt, I think there will be universal recognition that the House of Commons of Canada has endeavoured to deal with this matter in the right spirit; and, if all that some would desire has not been accomplished, nevertheless there will be appreciation of the spirit in which the work has been done and the good results that have been obtained.

Topic:   REVISED EDITION. COMMONS
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UNI L

John Flaws Reid

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. REID (Mackenzie):

I have listened with a great deal of pleasure to the remarks of the Prime Minister in regard to the housing scheme, and also in regard to the share which the Provincial Government bears of the cost of taking care of the unemployed. While I am in accord with the Prime Minister as respects the housing scheme, I do not think it should be regarded as a plan to stimulate trade. In the first place, the Federal Government loans the money to the Provincial Government, which in turn loans it to the municipality, where it rests. The munic'nal government will then have to bear all the costs of depreciation, and depreciation may come in five years' time or sooner. This is a point which I wish the Prime Minister to consider; I think he should go a little further than he has gone. He tells us that the Federal Government carries one-third of the cost of taking care of the unemployed. I should like the Federal Government to do this in co-operation with the Provincial Government and the municipality. The Federal Government should bear one-third of the de-

preciation so that this will not all fall on the municipal government. I know for a fact that in several municipalities the scheme was not taken up because the municipal governments saw that it would throw the burden of depreciation altogether on them. This Government would be well advised seriously to consider approaching the Provincial Governments and the municipal governments if need be and proposing an arrangement all three governments would bear one-third each of the cost of depreciation.

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LIB

Lawrence Geoffrey Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I would ask the chairman of the committee (Mr. Cronyn) to give some explanation of what is meant by the addition to clause 11 of the words "as such"? What is the meaning of the amendment?

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UNION

Hume Cronyn

Unionist

Mr. CRONYN:

Section 11 of the original Act was amended at the last session of Parliament so as to read as follows:

The Commission sh; 11 award pensions to or in respect of members of the forces who have suffered disability in accordance with the rates set out in Schedule A of this Act, and in respect of members of the forces who have died in accordance with the rates set out in Schedule B of this Act, when the disability or death in respect of which the application for pension is made, was attributable to military service.

Upon the advice or recommendation of the Board of Pension Commissioners it is proposed to add to this provision the words "as such".

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LIB
UNION

Hume Cronyn

Unionist

Mr. CRONYN:

I think my hon. friend

will recall the discussions we have had in earlier committees on that point. Our Pension Act, as distinct from the Acts of many other countries, was virtually an insurance to the members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force-in other words; if those members, from almost any cause other than their wilful misconduct, were injured or killed during their period of service, they or their dependents received a pension. It was thought that since the cessation of the war that basis of pension should be narrowed, and that a pension should only be awarded, in respect of those who are still in the military or naval service of Canada, if the accident or death which occurred arose from military service as such.

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LIB

Lawrence Geoffrey Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

In order to get a concrete example take the case of a man who was injured or killed at a militia camp by

falling olf a horse. Would that be attributable, in the mind of the chairman, to military service as such?

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UNION

Hume Cronyn

Unionist

Mr. CRONYN:

To my mind, yes, without any doubt; but if that man went off to a race track, there got a mount and raced, and was killed I do not think-even though he was a member of the forces and was properly on leave-his dependent! would be pensioned.

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June 2, 1921