Mr. P. F. CASGRAIN (Charlevoix-Sague-nay):
Mr. Speaker, to any keen observer of politics it is apparent that the government is not on "easy street" to-day. It does not like the turn that this debate has taken, and hon. members opposite who have spoken in support of the resolution have tried to introduce political issues entirely apart from the subject matter and thus to becloud the real issue before the house. This is done in an endeavour to have- the country forget the two main points of this resolution, to wit, relief for farmers and the unemployed, and the constitutional aspect -of the powers sought by the government to carry out this relief.
By some hon. gentlemen on your right, Mr Speaker, we have been accused of playing politics, and we have been severely criticized for the course we took during the by-election in Three Rivers-St. Maurice, and throughout the late provincial election in Quebec. The hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe) was severely taken to task by the hon. member for Dorchester (Mr. Gagnon) for some of his utterances during the campaign in Three Rivers-St. Maurice. The hon. member for
Unemployment Continuance Act
Dorchester attempted to make political capital out of the result of that by-election. Apparently to please his political chief, he told the house that the result of that byelection represented the unanimous opinion of the province of Quebec in favour of the Tory party. That is far from the fact. The hon. gentleman forgot to state that another byelection took place about the same time in the riding of East Hamilton in this province, always regarded as a safe Conservative seat, but the government candidate was overwhelmingly defeated, and to-day East Hamilton is represented in this house by a Labour member. The hon. member for Dorchester also told the house that the people of Quebec, and more especially the younger generation, were enthusiastic in their admiration of the right hon. leader of the Conservative party, that in fact he was the idol of the province. Many counties in my province, including the county which I have the honour to represent in this house, gave very large majorities to the supporters of the Liberal party at the election in 1930, and I affirm to the house and to the country that the majority of the electors of Quebec as well as the younger generation are not at all enthusiastic admirers of the right hon. leader of the government. Our young men do not regard him as their idol and they decline to follow him. Speaking for my own county, I am confident that our people both old and young are ardent supporters of the right hon. leader of the Liberal party (Mr. Mackenzie King) and our leader in Quebec, the hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe).
Let me say, Mr. Speaker, that those hon. gentlemen who have followed the lead of the hon. member for Dorchester do not represent the real feeling of the people of my province. Those hon. members, it is true, were returned to this house at the election of 1930, but at the last provincial election they were not able to return any of their candidates for the local house. Last August the province of Quebec in the most unmistakable terms returned a verdict of confidence in the Liberal administration which has been controlling the affairs of the province for the last thirty-four years. On that occasion the electors of Quebec had a chance to choose between the Hon. Mr. Tasehereau and Mr. Houde, and by an overwhelming majority they showed their preference for the leader of the administration that had enjoyed the confidence of the province for the past thirty-four years rather than turn to a demagogue like the provincial leader of the Tory party. Let me remind hon. gentlemen to your right, and more especially the
hon. member for Dorchester, that although they may try to belittle our leader in Quebec, my hon. friend from Quebec East, they are playing a very poor game, and they may rest assured that long after they have gone into the valley of oblivion the name of the Hon. Ernest Lapointe will be held in honour and esteem by many generations yet unborn, for he will stand in history as one of the greatest men of our race both in the province of Quebec and in the dominion.
It is not surprising, Mr. Speaker, to hear our hon. friends opposite talking in such a reckless fashion. They were over-enthusiastic after the general election of 1930, and they thought they could repeat their success by fooling the people again in 1931 at the provincial election, but the electors of my province were wiser then than they were in 1930. Our friends opposite are bad losers, and having suffered a severe defeat in the provincial election, naturally they vent their disappointment upon our esteemed leader in Quebec, my hon. friend from Quebec East. At the next federal election I am convinced that the electors of Quebec will display the same sound judgment as they did at the recent provincial election, and that their example will be followed by the electors of the other provinces, and they will send back to their homes our friends opposite so that they may have an opportunity to meditate over their defeat.
We have been accused by some members on your right, Mr. Speaker, of unduly delaying the adoption of this resolution, and thereby becoming responsible for the suffering of the unemployed because this measure of relief is not enacted immediately. But the blame is not to be laid at our door; rather it is the fault of the government which waited for over a month after the opening of the session before introducing this resolution. On reference to the orders of the day it will be found that it was only after the hon. member for Kenora-Rainy River (Mr. Heenan) had introduced his amendment on the motion to go into supply that the government decided to bring this resolution before the house. The debate has not been unduly long; to-day we are entering on the eighth day. I take issue with the hon. Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Stevens) who stated the other day that the debate had been in progress for over two weeks. Only thirty-seven members of the official opposition have spoken so far, and they have been joined in debate by fifteen of our hon. friends on the opposite side and by seven members representing various groups on this side of the house-fifty-nine all told.
Unemployment Continuance Act
In 1926 it will be- recalled that there were debates continuing for weeks and weeks, and in 1930 also, when this very question of unemployment was an issue the majority of hon. gentlemen who were then sitting on this side got up one after another and read to the house carefully prepared briefs that had been drafted for them by their party organization. Are there two kinds of justice, one for the Tories and one for the Liberals? If in the days of 1926 and- in 1930 it was right to appose the resolutions and motions proposed by the government of the day, Mr. Speaker, surely to-day we should be given the same freedom of speech and the same liberty of action enjoyed by the Tory party in those days: After all we are here to perform a duty. When we took our places in this house we took an oath of office, and we cannot let this resolution pass, after hearing speeches such as those delivered by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Railways and Canals, and the Minister of Trade and Commerce, without entering our protest. I should like to refer especially to the speech delivered in this house the other day by the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Stevens), in which he said:
It is true that at that time an appropriation might have been voted, and it was very largely the burden of the complaint of some hon. members that that was not done, but I invite hon. gentlemen to consider this, that when an appropriation is passed the purpose for which it is to be used must be specified, and the Auditor General and other officers of the crown in scrutinizing expenditures under such an appropriation, always keep the government very closely to the purpose specified in such a vote.
That is the reason, Mr. Speaker, why the government to-day ccmes before this house asking permission to evade that scrutiny of every appropriation voted by parliament which is required by the laws of our country. It is our prerogative to see where our money goes, the money which comes from the taxpayers of this country, and to see that the government does not commit any abuses in the use of that money. That is the reason why this debate is going on. Further, the Minister of Trade and Commerce said:
We have certain commitments which have been made under the act; that is, agreements have been entered into with each of the provinces and various works of a different character are being carried on by the provinces with the aid of the dominion, and we ask for an extension of the act for two months, because the difficulties which then confronted the country have not been surmounted. . . .
If it were only to carry out such commitments and finish such works as have been undertaken under this act, speaking for myself and I think for all hon. members on this side of the house, there would be no objection to letting the bill pass, because it would be simply completing those works which have been undertaken for the benefit of the people. But the Minister of Trade and Commerce also said that further relief was required, and that is the point upon which we take issue. While parliament is sitting, and while we are here to decide these issues as representatives of the people, we do not want these powers given to the government. We are here to vote upon any amount of money required by this government to carry on its relief woi'k in the cities and throughout the country.
Since the government has been in power I think it is safe to say that it has been given by the country at large and by the opposition in this house fair play, a free hand and ample opportunity to inaugurate any policies it desired to bring into force; it has not been hampered unduly by the opposition. But discussion is necessary on the part of any opposition, though that is net synonymous with inaction or acquiescence. We are not here simply to listen to the government and abide by its dictates; we are not supposed to say "ditto" to everything the government may propose. The country expects that at all times the opposition shall be vigilant in the preservation of established rights and the liberties of the people, and do all in its power to prevent the usurpation of any rights or powers which do not belong to those entrusted with the government of the country. It is the duty of the opposition to stand by its own principles and policies, especially when there exists throughout the country to an appreciable extent a critical attitude towards the government. It is the duty of the opposition to express that attitude in this house and to present our criticism with regard to the measures brought forward by the government. In the province from which I come I may say there is a good deal of criticism directed against the government as to the manner in which this unemployment relief money has been administered, and also as to the way the government has put in force the policies it promised to bring forward during the election of 1930. That is why this debate has gone on for some days and the reason why it may go on for some time longer.
I think we are all in agreement with the object of this resolution; that is, we all desire to seek ways and means of relieving the farmers and the unemployed throughout the country. But as to the methods adopted in the past and proposed to be continued in the future we disagree. This proposal is too far
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unemployment and farm relief, has had to go to the very source to which, as we pointed out before, it was necessary to go in order to settle the problem. We stated that cooperation was necessary among the municipalities, the provinces and the federal government.
We have been told of the wonderful success that has been achieved in Saskatchewan through the relief commission appointed there under the bill; yet a general relief unemployment commission, such as has been advocated by my leader, has been refused by the government. Notwithstanding the efforts of the government, the situation has been going from bad to worse, and to-day we have only to refer to the speeches of certain western members in order to see that in the provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta conditions to-day are worse than they have ever been. We find the members from those provinces asking for feed for cattle and for seed for the spring. We have also heard of the complaints that were made in British Columbia regarding the administration of the act. Owing to the maladministration of the act, it has been necessary to appoint a commission to investigate matters. I have in my hand an editorial which appeared in Le Soleil of Quebec on August 27 last. This editorial discloses the fact that certain hon. members who sit to your right, Mr. Speaker, attempted to play politics in the last provincial elections in Quebec. They tried to make use of the efforts put forth by the government to grant unemployment relief in order to force the electors to vote in their favour. This editorial quotes a letter which had been written by the hon. member for Levis (Mr. Fortin) dated August 22, 1931, addressed to the electors of Bienville and Lauzon. The editorial is in French and is as follows:
Sell Yourself Or Starve!
Such seems to have been the motto of certain Houdist electioneers in the last campaign. Sell yourself or starve! These words are actually embodied in certain documents that we have in our possession and which bring shame on those who had them circulated. It is impossible to close our eyes, in connection with this literature, to the blackmail directed against the liberty of citizens.
The following circular letter which Dr. Emile Fortin, member for Levis, at Ottawa, addressed to the electorate of his county to bribe them by promising bread in return for their vote in favour of Mr. Noel Belleau, the Houdist candidate, is an instance of the corruption carried on in this election:
Do You Want Work?
Levis, August 22, 1931.
Electors of Bienville,
Electors of Lauzon.
Famine Is At Your Door!
There are signs that winter will be severe! Unemployment increases: Workmen of Lauzon, whatever may be your party attachment or feelings, do you want work? Do you want bread? Help me! and put your trust in the only government which can relieve you.
Heretofore, I have not spared my time or energy to help you. Shall you, by an unfavourable and thoughtless vote undo my twelve months of work and anxiety?
You need the Dominion government. Vote for it by voting for Noel Belleau, thus you will be endorsing the following contracts:
Fire-engine boat, $350,000.
Repairs to the Prince Edward Island, $270,000.
Repairs to the dry docks, $36,000.
Repairs to the forts, $150,000.
Repairs to government boats, $100,000.
Repairs at the engineers' camp-target range,
Think how advantageous it would be for Levis if I had to help me: Noel Belleau, K.C., minister of the crown, at Quebec; Hon. Maurice Duprd, a son of Levis, minister at Ottawa; Mr. Onesime Gagnon, member for Dorchester and future minister in the Bennett administration.
What help can Mr. Belanger be to you in contrast with what we can do for you?
The provincial government can do nothing without the support of the government, at Ottawa.
Mr. Bennett can give you prosperity. Three Rivers endorsed his policy and received $700,000.
Let Lauzon and Bienville do their share, they will be given in return work and prosperity.
Workmen of Lauzon if you disown the Conservative party what can you expect from it next winter ?
(Sgd.) Dr. Emdle Fortin,
Member at Ottawa.
Never has the Conservative party admitted more impudently to what means they resort to bribe the people.
"Three Rivers endorsed his policy and received $700,000." What a confession! So, when the country is in the throes of a critical economic crisis, the Conservative party, at Ottawa, in an endeavour to destroy the Liberal party, grant almost three-quarters of a million to the ratepayers in Three Rivers to purchase their votes and ease their conscience! A party which resorts to such means deserves to Be wiped out. It is what the Liberals did, last Monday, to the Houdists, and it is what they will do in four years to Mr. Bennett.
I shall translate a part of this editorial as it may prove interesting to the people at large. The letter says that Bennett alone can give prosperity, that Three Rivers has approved of his policy and has received $700,000 in the form of relief, and the electors of Bienville and Lauzon are advised to do likewise and they will see a return to pros-
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perity. They are told that if they renounce the Conservative party they cannot expect to receive anything during next winter.
Mr. Speaker, if the hon. members who sit on your right have not used this act to play politics, I should like to know what they have done. They used it to appeal to the people in the province of Quebec during the last provincial election. Had there been appointed a relief commission, as advocated by my right hon. leader such things would not have occurred. I think I am safe in saying that this act has proved to be inadequate and futile, its administration has been wasteful and extravagant and the necessary relief has not reached the people. The hon. member for Prince (Mr. MacLean) quoted last night an extract from the Financial Post which showed the cost of the administration of this act. The figures showed that the debt of the country has been increased because of the expenses of administration.
Has unemployment been relieved and work given to the people? I have before me figures which show that in September, 1931, one year after the government had taken office, 7,798 firms were employing 972,537 people. In January, 1932, the figures stood at 7,832 firms employing 835,960 people, a considerable decrease in the number employed. In February, 1932, the totals had declined further to 7,766 firms employing 819.175 people. These figures show that not very much work has been provided for the people of Canada. The index of employment in industry in Canada is at its lowest ebb since 1922. Who is responsible for this? The Prime Minister admitted that the government was responsible when he made the speeches to which I have alluded.
The hon. Minister of Labour (Mr. Gordon) speaking in the house on February 23, 1932, said:
As time went on it was apparent that further measures would have to be adopted in order that those in want might be given such employment as would tide them over, and the result was the legislation of last session. Under that legislation 334,301 persons have been given employment up to January 31. 1932, the total number of man-days being 7,415,973. The total commitments necessary to carry on the work to February 22, 1932, amounted to $76,426,387. the federal government's share being $32,822,847. This work is still proceeding. The figures I have given will be subject to some slight variation when the report is tabled which I trust will be shortly.
The total cost was 876,426,387 to provide 7.415,973 man-days, or slightly more than $10 for every day's work provided. Where did the balance go? Is that the way to take care of unemployment? When the $20,000,000 was voted in 1930 we were given to understand
that many public works would be undertaken in order to provide unemployment relief. After the act had been passed the Minister of Labour wrote to various members of the government and of the opposition asking us to point out the various works which would be necessary in our constituency in order to assist the people. I replied to the hon. minister under date of August 15, 1931. He acknowledged receipt of my letter but he did not take cognizance of the requests which I had made and the suggestions which I had given.
I cannot see how we can abide by the dictates and requests of the government and pass this resolution without protest. We are being asked to extend for two months legislation which vests in the government all the powers which this house has over the control of public money. I have demonstrated the results which have been obtained from the administration of this act and I cannot conceive how we, representing our constituencies and having taken an oath to fulfil our mandates, can give to the government while parliament is sitting the rights granted under the constitution to this house. We are being asked to do away with the committees of supply and ways and means, the very bases of the parliamentary system.
Hon. members of the government have asked for cooperation but how can we cooperate when we do not know what amount will be expended and for what purpose? How can we cooperate with the leader of the government when he does as he pleases, even with his own supporters and refuses to accept counsel or advice from anyone? Most of the hon. members on this side who have spoken, and I think some on the other side, will agree that the gentleman who leads the government to-day wants to do it by himself alone. Hon. members have called him Nero and Mussolini, and the names of other absolute dictators in history. We have also called him Mussolini. For my part, last year I said what I thought of him and I do not want to say any more, because the people of the country know him well enough.
I protest against this resolution, and this is the reason I and other members have been carrying on this debate. We contend that if this resolution is passed, it means that we shall be giving up all the rights and privileges for which our forefathers fought in 1837 and for which a fight was carried on in England hundreds of years ago, in order that the representatives of the people might obtain control of the public money.