April 3, 1930

LIB

Cameron Ross McIntosh

Liberal

Mr. McINTOSH:

That was thoroughly discussed last year in this house, Mr. Speaker. I have not time to go into it now, and I think the hon. member knows the facts. I can add nothing to it by taking up the time of the house at the present moment.

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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

You could

answer yes or no.

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LIB

Malcolm McLean

Liberal

Mr. McLEAN (Melfort):

You cannot

answer that to all questions.

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LIB

Cameron Ross McIntosh

Liberal

Mr. McINTOSH:

What does the amendment amount to that my hon. friend has this year placed before the house? A blockade amendment like that of last year. It has held up the business of the house and has delayed the business of the country. After the committee's report of 1929 was adopted and endorsed, and after the matter was passed on to the provinces for their action. When we consider that phase of the matter, why should we debate this question indefinitely? Why not accept the decision of the house and the committee? Why do not hon. members accept this decision? I would say that all further amendments just postpone the day of

action and deprive the provinces of the opportunity they should have to outline to all Canada their stand on a matter of this nature.

My hon. friend from North Winnipeg is quoted in Hansard at page 2775. Hansard at that page simply records the answers given to my hon. friend by the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe) and other members of the house. I do not think I should take up the time of the house in dealing with them. But I wish to read the words of my hon. friend as they are recorded at page 119 in the 1928 report of the select standing committee on industrial and international relations. I think the report clears up the difficulty rather definitely. On the occasion to which I refer the Deputy Minister of Justice was giving evidence before the committee. It was our intention at that time to get the question of legality and jurisdiction cleared up once and for all, and it was for that reason we called the deputy minister as a witness. The question by the hon. member for North Winnipeg appears as follows:

If I understand the statements here this morning correctly, I would interpret your remarks to mean that the federal government has not authority to impose Dominion-wide legislation, or has not the authority to impose compulsory unemployment insurance, or sickness insurance.

The answer by the deputy minister to that question was clear and concise. It is simply:

Yes, that is correct.

The hon. member for North Winnipeg did not have any more questions, and he accepted that answer as final. Yet, after accepting the report of that committee as final, and accepting that as a final statement, we have the spectacle of the hon. member coming before this house on two occasions. The first time was in 1928, on which occasion he moved an amendment that was hopelessly beaten. He has repeated the amendment in the 1930 session, and it also will be beaten.

It seems to me that the hon. member for North Winnipeg and every other hon. member of this house, should be devoting their energies especially to an acceleration of public opinion in this province and other provinces in the hope that one province, or a group of provinces will take the initiative and, in cooperation with the Dominion government, as our Prime Minister has advised, seek to work out a uniform plan-something that will be satisfactory to all concerned. That is what all parties should be doing, apart from political prestige or political

Unemployment-Mr. Mackenzie King

fortune, if they consider the problem of unemployment to be one that affects closely the lives of thousands of working people in Canada.

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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

Does not

the hon. member think that the greatest possible impetus that could be given to this particular thing of which he speaks would be by initiatory action of the federal government?

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LIB

Cameron Ross McIntosh

Liberal

Mr. McINTOSH:

I do not believe there

is any great impetus to anything, when it is illegal and when it is unconstitutional, and when it is not demanded in that sense. We ought to go at it in a correct way, and by doing that we will arrive at a more satisfactory solution.

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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

We are

not asking for anything that is illegal.

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LIB

Cameron Ross McIntosh

Liberal

Mr. McINTOSH:

I take the hon. member's statement and I am looking at it in the light of the action of this house last year. I am looking at it in that light, and in t.he light of what this house will certainly do this year. From this viewpoint I think I am correct in estimating that the hon. member's question has an illegal or unconstitutional ring to it.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

What did this house do in regard to the liquor question last year?

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LIB

Cameron Ross McIntosh

Liberal

Mr. McINTOSH:

That is in reality a

budget question, and does not affect this one.

I therefore think it is the duty of this house to defeat the amendment. I am going to vote against it, so that we may uphold the record of the house in its responsible committee activities for the years 1928 and 1929. Then in no uncertain voice I am going to ask the Prime Minister to impress upon the house the fact that it is the privilege of the provinces to take action under the constitution which belongs to them. Once they take that action the cooperation of the Dominion government and the financial cooperation of this house can be given them. There is no question about it that if we can do it in that way, legally and constitutionally, public opinion may be massed on this vital question from one province to another, clear across Canada. Once we get that, I am satisfied hon. members of this house will repeat the action taken in other years, in view of what was done by the committee on international and industrial relations in 1928 and again in 1929. The action of the committee on those occasions was upheld by this house, and I am sure the

action of the committee and this house last year will be repeated this year, and that action thus will be found to be a distinct contribution to the solution of the problem, in a way that will redound to the complete and permanent satisfaction of the people throughout Canada.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, on Monday

last, on behalf of the Minister of Finance (Mr. Dunning), I moved that the house go into committee to consider supply, I did so in the hope of having supply voted for the Department of External Affairs. The hon. member for North Winnipeg (Mr. Heaps) moved an amendment that all the words after the word "that" be struck out and the following substituted therefor:

In the opinion of this house the government should take immediate action to deal with the question of unemployment.

For a period of three days since, the house has been discussing the subject of unemployment. I have tried to follow the debate closely, with a view to seeing what was most in the minds of hon. members. After listening to the addresses from all sides, I must confess I have come to the conclusion that some appear to have one objective and others another. The house is far from united in its understanding of what the hon. member who moved the amendment had in mind when he asked that the house should immediately consider the question of unemployment.

There is a certain aspect of the problem of unemployment which all members have sought to emphasize; that is that the problem of unemployment is a national one.. I observed that many hon. members stressed strongly the view that the unemployment problem was a national problem. I do not think we can question that for a moment. What significance attaches to this depends entirely upon what inferences are to be drawn therefrom. If it is meant that the unemployment problem is a national problem to the exclusion of being a provincial problem or to the exclusion of being also a municipal problem or, to take a step in the other direction, to the exclusion of being an empire problem, or to the exclusion of being a world problem, then in that sense I cannot admit it to be a national problem. Once we admit that the problem of unemployment is something which far exceeds being any merely municipal or any purely provincial problem; that it is larger by far than any merely national problem; that it is again wider than an empire problem and that it is in fact a world problem, then at once I am pre-

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Unemployment-Mr. Mackenzie King

pared to agree that in this meaning of the term and in this relationship it is a national problem:

Admitting that, what inference is to be drawn? The inference, I think is clear; it is that in the endeavour to meet or to solve this problem, there must be as much in the way of combined effort as may be possible, and there must be very much in the way of division of labour. Each part must do what in its particular sphere and within its own jurisdiction it finds it possible to do. The League of Nations, representing most if not all of the nations of the world, may do something towards the solution of the problem of unemployment, but with regard to this problem the part taken by the League of Nations, will be very different from the part taken by a municipality, the question will not be solved by either one attempting to deal with it to the exclusion of the other.

Because it has been conceded that unemployment is a national problem, some hon. members have sought to draw the inference that at the present time there is throughout Canada an emergent situation demanding immediate action on the part of the federal government. Other hon. members have not stressed so much the emergent condition; indeed, they have dropped it altogether and have devoted their attention-and I think very wisely-to the larger question of whether or not the problem of unemplojunent can be solved, at least in part through the introduction of some system of social insurance, some particular form of unemployment insurance The discussion in this particular has centred around the question as to whether or not this federal government should take the initiative in seeking to bring about the adoption of a system of that kind by the provinces of the Dominion.

Having regard to the obligation of the League of Nations, one would hardly feel that because the League is concerned with the problem of unemployment it should therefore immediately set out to assess all the countries of the world with a view to meeting an unemployment problem as it may arise in anjr one particular country. The League of Nations, moreover would not feel it a part of its obligation to attempt to force upon the different countries of the world a system of unemployment insurance. I do think, however, that it would be and is an all-important part of the work of the League of Nations to endeavour to draw to the attention of all nations the magnitude of this problem, its many intricate phases and, so far as may be possible, by educational efforts and propaganda of different kinds, to supply the different countries of the world with the information

needed to enable them, so far as may be possible, one with the other, to adopt some system or systems of unemployment insurance that in the course of time will be uniform throughout the world. I think also it might be reasonably argued to be a part of the obligation of the League of Nations that, if a very serious situation should arise in any one country, where there was great distress, the League might well appeal to all other countries to enable some fund to be raised whereby immediate assistance could be given to the particular country affected.

Almost the same thing might be said with regard to unemployment within the British Empire. I do not think for a moment that any one here would say that the problem of unemployment where serious in any part of the British Empire does not affect all parts of the empire. I believe that to-day this Dominion is being very vitally affected by the serious unemployment problem which exists in Great Britain, but because that is the case it does not follow that Great Britain is called upon to expect all parts of the empire to contribute to some fund to be made available to the particular part of the empire in which distress exists to-day. Nor do I think it follows that Great Britain would feel for a moment that it was a part of her obligation to say that a system of social insurance or unemployment insurance was something which necessarily must be adopted by all the dominions whether or not they wished to have such a system, merely from the fact that she herself has a system which has been thought appropriate for the British Isles. I say it does not follow that she should seek to oblige all the dominions to adopt a similar method of dealing with this question. I do believe, however, that there is imposed upon Great Britain and upon the component parts of the British Empire the obligation to do what they can to have established uniform standards of living, standards of health, and standards of working conditions in industry throughout all parts of the Empire. I do not believe any part of the world has gone as far as the British Empire has gone in that direction; I think in this matter the British Empire as a whole stands as an example to the world.

When it comes to our own Dominion and more particularly to the work of this federal government, I feel that we are in a comparable position to that which I have described with regard to the obligations of the League of Nations or the obligation of the British Empire as a whole. Recognizing that the unemployment problem is as vast as it is, there is a real obligation upon this federal government, in

Unemployment-Mr. Mackenzie King

accordance with the powers which are given to it and having regard to the entirety of its obligations, particularly in relation to the obligations assigned to the provinces, to do what it can in what it believes to be an effective way to help solve this very great problem. I do not feel however, that for that reason this federal government is called upon to ask the taxpayers of all parts of this Dominion to permit it to assess them by way of additional taxation in order that it may take money out of the federal treasury, not to be used for federal purposes as such but to be distributed to certain of the provinces, not necessarily to all provinces, and possibly not even to the provinces but only to certain municipalities.

Let me repeat that statement. I can see nothing arising out of a recognition of this problem as a national problem which obliges this federal government, having regard to our constitution and the division of powers under it, to collect taxes from the people generally in order to meet a situation which affects only a certain group of people in some municipalities in this country, but which does not adversely affect the country as a whole. I am not saying we could not do such a thing; I am not saving that this federal parliament cannot vote money for any purposes for which it mav desire so to do, but I am trying to make it clear that under our constitution I do not think it was ever intended that this federal government should become the agency through which problems which are primarily municipal and provincial should be dealt with.

I might go a step further. In connection with this auestion of unemployment, as hon. gentlemen more particular!}' of the Labour group have dealt with it, we have heard only of the unemployed who happen to be in the favoured, or if they wish to so construe it, in the unfavoured position of belonging to certain trades which may or may not be allied with organized labour. Their reference primarily was to groups of citizens of this country who are engaged more or less in certain of the trades of the country.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

We did not narrow it in any such way.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I am glad to accept my hon. friend's explanation. I would ask the house and the country this question: What consideration has been given in this debate to members of the professions? There are large numbers of young men and women in Canada who have gone into the so called learned professions-physicians, lawyers, ministers, members of the teaching profession, professors, teachers and others. I do not think my hon. friend will deny that those people are perfoming a useful service and function in the state and that they are entitled to consideration. I would like to ask my hon. friend if he has ever stopped to consider that manv a young man, seeking to get a start in his chosen profession, whether law or medicine or other calling, has to wait, not one or two months during the winter, but sometimes month after month, and I might almost say year after year, before he begins to receive any remuneration worth speaking of in his own business. These persons and their families are part of the taxpayers of this country, they constitute a portion of those who are paying the taxes which my hon. friend desires to take from the treasury and send to the municipalities to be dealt with in the manner he has described.

In connection with the professions, may I mention the journalists as being also an important branch? Those who are engaged in literary work in its many forms do not have continuous occupation every day of every month of every year. Consider also those who are engaged in commercial and financial enterprises and the number of persons employed by them. Has my hon. friend given special consideration to those people as respects their periods of unemployment? What about those engaged in wholesale and retail trades and the thousands of men and women employed as clerks in the shops and stores and hotels and other places of business? During periods of depression employer after employer, whether at the head of a shop or of a large industrial or financial enterprise, is obliged to eliminate a certain number of employees. Is this money which is to go out of the federal treasury to the municipalities to go to those who are being thus eliminated?

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UFA

Henry Elvins Spencer

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. SPENCER:

Certainly.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I wish we had heard a little more of it, because we now begin to see the scope of what my hon. friends are suggesting. Consider the farming community of which the hon. member who has just spoken (Mr. Spencer) is a member. During several months of the year it is impossible to carry on certain farm operations. Those who are engaged in farming are aware of that and during the time that there is an opportunity to work, they take that factor into account. Have they been asking this federal parliament to take the taxes of the people and dole them out for the purposes of meeting their temporary periods of unemployment? I

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Unemployment-Mr. Mackenzie King

have yet to hear of a single deputation coming to this parliament from any agricultural district in this country to ask that federal moneys should be used in the way here proposed. Mr. Speaker, I submit that the agricultural element in this country is entitled to every possible consideration.

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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

May I

interrupt the right hon. gentleman? The farmer members in the Alberta legislature, who are themselves farmers, voted in favour of the adoption of some system of unemployment insurance.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

My hon. friend has just directed our attention to farmer members; I am speaking of the farmers themselves.

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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

Those members are themselves farmers.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

We all understand why a member of parliament or of a legislature may make a particular appeal such as my hon. friend is making, but what I wish to bring home to those who are so lightly suggesting that we should dip into the federal treasury for these purposes-

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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

Not lightly.

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April 3, 1930