March 29, 1932

CON

Pierre Édouard Blondin (Speaker of the Senate)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

The hon. member has risen to a point of order.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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LIB

Thomas McMillan

Liberal

Mr. McMILLAN:

I have only twenty minutes, Mr. Speaker, and we know my hon. friend sufficiently-

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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CON

Pierre Édouard Blondin (Speaker of the Senate)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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CON

Eccles James Gott

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GOTT:

Just between the pages my hon. friend is turning-

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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CON

Charles-Philippe Beaubien

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BEAUBIEN:

State your point of order.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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CON

Eccles James Gott

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GOTT:

I am going to state it, and I do not need a prayer book to help me. The hon. member always protests when an hon. gentleman on this side reads his speech, and I protest against my hon. friend reading his speech.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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CON

Pierre Édouard Blondin (Speaker of the Senate)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

I have not observed the hon. member reading his speech.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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LIB

Thomas McMillan

Liberal

Mr. McMILLAN:

I am within your judgment, Mr. Speaker, when I say that scarcely an hon. member rises to speak without keeping his notes either in his hand or on his desk. There is only one reason why I have my notes before me; this is the worst place on earth in which to speak, and sometimes it gets on my nerves.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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CON

Eccles James Gott

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GOTT:

Then do not protest when others read their speeches.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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LIB

Thomas McMillan

Liberal

Mr. McMILLAN:

For four and a half months from March 12 to July 29 we were balked at every turn in our efforts to obtain from the government information which was long overdue. Even in the face of the solemn pledge of the Prime Minister that he would end unemployment by federal means we were continually sidetracked, either by dead silence on the part of members of the cabinet or by such expressions as, "This question can stand," or "The hon. member will be advised when this comes down," or "The matter is purely a provincial one," or "The primary responsibility rests on the provinces and munic>

palities." In this way the chosen representatives of the people were cajoled by the delusive speeches and promises of hon. members opposite. Finally, on July 29, four working days before the session closed, with estimates totalling millions of dollars waiting to be passed and with other important business still before the house, the Prime Minister introduced this blank cheque proposition. No one can be criticized for saying that this measure was brought down in the dying days of the session, when the thermometer was hovering around 110 degrees and when members were so exhausted that they were not in proper condition to give it the serious attention it

Unemployment Continuance Act

demanded. Nevertheless the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Stevens), in defending this legislation, stated that it had been given full consideration. At all events, chapter 58 clothed the government with authority to do whatever they liked and expend any amount of money they thought necessary, with no effective check whatever by the Auditor General, the one official who cannot be dismissed by the government without a two-thirds vote of the members of the House of Commons, but who can only exercise his powers when supply is brought down in the regular manner and earmarked for a special purpose. Under this plan -the Auditor General is not allowed to exercise his supervision. On this point the Minister of Trade and Commerce said:

I invite the house to consider that when an appropriation is passed under supply the purpose for which it is used must be specified, and the Auditor General and other officers of the crown, in scrutinizing such expenditures, always keep the government very closely to the purpose specified in such vote.

That was where the shoe pinched; this government, in their reckless extravagance, did not want to be curbed, so through this blank cheque legislation they managed to accomplish their purpose. It was amusing to be told by the Prime Minister that in order to revive this dead statute it was only necessary to use another of his phrases and say, "notwithstanding such and such a condition." Well, sir, if there is anyone who can make black appear white through his phrases, the Right Hon. R. B. is certainly the gent who can do it. He reminds me of the two old Scotchmen who were conversing outside the door of a country crossroads inn. Sandy said to Donal, "I say Donal, d'ye ken what 'Meetaphysics' means?" "No!" said Donal, "I dinna ken." "Well," said Sandy, "just listen and I'll tell you. If you're trjhn' to tell me about something you know nothing about and I know nothing about it either, that's Meetaphysics. And for half your time you are surely guilty of talkin' aboot the likes o'that."

But now, forsooth, as another reason for asking that this act be further extended the Prime Minister wishes a fair application of the test: "Has this act not worked fairly

well?" The answer is, that the shameful manner in which some of the provinces have misspent these unemployment relief funds granted from the federal chest, should forever damn such an unsound and indefensible system of financing. It is another vindication of the stand which Mr. Mackenzie King and the Liberal party have always taken, namely, that it is a sad mistake to encourage a system

whereby one authority shall provide the funds for another authority to expend without any responsibility for their provision.

Listen again to the words of the Prime Minister of British Columbia. The British Columbia government launched its program, employed 16,000 men, built 170 camps and contracted a cost of over $50,000 a day on the definite assurance of the federal government that it would pay half the cost. The scandalously lavish manner in which their camps were constructed surpasses all reasonable comprehension. Supplies of all kinds were purchased, including 50,000 blankets and over 100 Delco Light plants; and 450 steel wheel barrows were counted at one camp. A foreman had to be appointed to regulate their use. Men got jobs as surveyors whose fathers held high government positions. Other men, with cars, were running about the country with instruments, to lay out bunkhouses, and erect elevated water supply tanks, where no suitable water supply could be found.

To show further on what a lavish scale the money was handled, they built two camps, only a mile apart. Coal was shipped from Vancouver island for fuel purposes, while lots of suitable wood was lying upon the roadside. Is it any wonder that ultimately orders were received from the federal authorities that such extravagance must cease? But not until over $3,500,000 had been expended in this scandalously extravagant manner. Machinery was bought on a scale never before known in connection with relief work. Take the whole country over. During the sixteen months ending with January 31, 1932, out of the entire expenditure of $146,899,219 only 331,145 workmen were given employment for only some 44i days over the entire sixteen months, or an average of less than 3 days per month. Out of $147,000,000 expended in all, only $35,147,320.80 went for unemployment relief, less than one-third of the entire sum, constituting one of the most scandalously indefensible expenditures ever put over in the whole history of this country. And yet the Prime Minister had the temerity to stand up the other day and tell the house that the scheme had worked remarkably well.

I would like the Prime Minister to tell us where the other $112,000,000 has gone. Verily, were I in his predicament with such a record to my credit I would feel that I ought to be lashed for the remainder of my life.

Take also the administration of that $5,250,000 which has gone to direct relief for those 50,000 families in Saskatchewan, who have been in the burnt-out area for three successive seasons. To think that these people

Unemployment Continuance Act

through no fault of their own should suffer the loss of their all, for three successive seasons, and then at the hands of this government be compelled to sign promissory notes, which may hang over their heads for years. Do the members of this government not know of the carloads upon carloads of fruit, vegetables and provisions sent out this last fall from Ontario for the help of those people- almost eighty per cent of which came from my county of Huron?

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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CON

Eccles James Gott

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GOTT:

No. Mr. Speaker-

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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CON

Pierre Édouard Blondin (Speaker of the Senate)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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LIB

Thomas McMillan

Liberal

Mr. McMILLAN (Huron):

And we were

proud to come to their succour with this gift, for which we charged not a cent. When it comes to providing out of the federal chest by the government of Canada, or in other words through the whole of the people of Canada, they compel these farmers to sign promissory notes. Just picture the situation. Here are 50,000 farmers who have lost their all; yet, sir, they are compelled to sign promissory notes. An election comes on. Suppose I am in the field as a candidate. All I need to do is to send my emissaries all over that section of the country and warn these people of the obligation which hangs over their heads, telling them that they had better realize on which side their bread may be buttered. This is one of the most detestable stipulations which it is possible to think of. These promissory notes ought to be cancelled at once. It is one of the most detestable tricks which any administration could be guilty of, and so far as my voice would carry, 1 would stand here to Domesday to insist that the government withdraw that stipulation. I appeal to the better judgment of every hon. member of this house. I know there are many hon. members sitting across the floor, men who are honestly inclined, who in the ordinary affairs of life would not think of stooping to anything of a questionable nature. Why can we not for once in our lives stand shoulder to shoulder and insist that this government shall at once relieve these people of any such promissory notes?

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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CON

Pierre Édouard Blondin (Speaker of the Senate)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

The hon. member has spoken twenty minutes.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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LIB

Thomas McMillan

Liberal

Mr. McMILLAN (Huron):

Thank you. Interruptions constitute the argument, Mr. Speaker, which we always get from Tories who have not a case.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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LIB

Wilfrid Girouard

Liberal

Air. WILFRID GIROUARD (Drummond-Arthabaska) (Tra.nsk.tion) :

I have followed closely the debate on this resolution and I cannot conceal my astonishment in seeing the

government showing such obstinacy and stub-borness in adhering to a policy so devoid of results. All those who think rationally over the true state of affairs in this country cannot help but acknowledge that, up to the present, the government has followed a policy of groping in the dark which is disastrous to business as a whole. It is, therefore, not surprising that it is unable, to-day, to give one sound reason to justify this resolution. It must again resort to force by applying the closure and, for my part I would not be fulfilling my duty towards my constituents were I not to protest on their behalf against such an arbitrary measure.

Many good reasons militate against our endorsing this resolution, and I think it should be rejected because it tends to place especially in the hands of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) a weapon which enables him to uphold a dictatorship in a constitutional country. The Act which this resolution purports to revive is not in keeping with the needs of the people, it has been a complete failure, especially as regards the interests of the farming class. I am further strongly opposed to this resolution because to prolong a measure which has given rise to such gross abuses would be, to some extent, placing our country defenceless under a despotic regime; moreover its enactment would always be a threat concealed, if you wish, but nevertheless a real one, to the maintenance of peace, order and good government.

The act to relieve unemployment and the farming class was adopted at the end of last session. The resolution which preceded it, being moved on July 29, 1931, was inttitailed!: "Power to deal with the agricultural distress and labour situation." That is, sir, a year after assuming power the government is forced to admit, notwithstanding the remedy which it boasted of having alone the prescription and which was to cure all ills, that the situation in Canada, from the unemployment viewpoint, is very serious and that farming is very much depressed. However, the previous year, in 1930, the Prime Minister had travelled through the provinces stating from town to town that his party alone had a policy, the beneficent and immediate results of which were to bring back prosperity to the farming classes and end what he then termed the plague of unemployment. A year elapsed after these fine speeches were made, and the Prime Minister, in 1931, was obliged to ask the house to adopt measures to relieve unemployment and the farming classes. This authority was granted to him. He has now been in power for two years and to-day we are entitled to ask him -what results he obtained from this Act. We must judge of

Unemployment Continuance Act

the measure which he has had enacted by its results. If it has not produced the benefits expected we have a right to oppose a similar measure. Did the Unemployment Relief Act put an end to unemployment? We are fully aware that those who have no work in this country are more numerous than ever. Has the agricultural distress, to which the Prime Minister pointed1 in 1931, been alleviated? Never have the farming classes shown such discouragement as they do, to-day. Therefore, if this act has not borne any fruit, if it has not proved an effective remedy, why does the Prime Minister insist that it should remain in the statutes? He has now been in power for two years; it seems to me that we were entitled to expect, at the outset of the session, that the government would introduce in the House a measure which would result in relieving the unemployed and the Canadian farmer. Either the government have made no effort to realize the situation, or if they have done so, they have not sought earnestly the means to improve it or studied the problems with which the country is faced, and that is why, after two years of administration, the Prime Minister is obliged to come before parliament without any remedy to the situation which he was to solve on his assuming power.

However, we have already seen that the actual reason for this resolution is not solely the need for funds, because the Liberal party more than once have stated that they were willing to vote the required money, not only until May-as the Prime Minister requests- but a sufficient amount to last for a year if necessary. The government thought fit to refuse this offer. It was not accepted because they wished to again enjoy the arbitrary powers which the provisions of sections 3 and 4 of the act conferred upon them. These sections authorize the governor in council-that is the Prime Minister-to pass, notwithstanding any act to the contrary, the measure which they may deem necessary for peace, order and good government.

I respectfully submit, sir, that to grant such powers would be equivalent to parliament, of which we form part, surrendering absolutely rights which were dearly conquered; it would amount to proving ourselves traitors to those who obtained self-government, and, especially, it would be making the Prime Minister a dictator, he who assumed power by means of false representations made in all the provinces and who, to-day, seeks to remain in authority by force.

The Prime Minister in the course of his speech, last Wednesday, disclosed, I think,

his true nature when he spoke of the delegation of unemployed which came to Ottawa on March 3, 1932, and which included people from all provinces of Canada. After having reported and attempted to justify the reception he gave to this delegation, the Prime Minister expressed himself as follows:

Now, I put it to the house and to this country as to whether or not we do not owe at least that duty to every man, woman or child in Canada. Who would do less than to take adequate precautions for the purpose of preventing a mad charge upon this chamber, at three o'clock for the purpose of enabling people to express their opinions?

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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LIB

Joseph Philippe Baby Casgrain

Liberal

Mr. CASGRAIN (Translation):

He made

them mad.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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LIB

Wilfrid Girouard

Liberal

Mr. GIROUARD (Translation):

I do not think that such a speech is worthy of a Prime Minister. This, perhaps, is a proof that he is endowed with a great imagination, but it also shows his fears when meeting those who, peacefully, come to parliament seeking work promised by the Prime Minister. In preference to the views expressed by the Prime Minister, I would rather listen to those of a Conservative newspaper, "The Ottawa Journal" which commenting on the government's policy and the Prime Minister's attitude, stated in its editorial page of March 4, 1932: The scene on Parliament Hill yesterday was one that no British citizen could view with pride. The task of a government is to govern. But while under certain circumstances performance of that duty may compel the use of force, there is little but revelation of timidity and panic in the sort of thing that was flaunted in the face of Ottawa yesterday. These things were not a revelation * of strength: they were a revelation of fear. Strong government is required-sometimes. But there is a difference between strength and hysteria. And it was the latter that Ottawa saw yesterday. Unnecessary fear.

Here is a newspaper supporting this government which condemns in no uncertain terms the way people in this country are received at the gates of parliament, when they come to ask the Prime Minister to fulfil his pledges of 1930.

However, the Prime Minister, in the course of his remarks, went further, and I wonder if, on this occasion, he did not really disclose what was at the bottom of his heart when speaking about section 4 of the Unemployment Relief Act which allows the government to take all the necessary measures, according to him, to maintain order. The following are the views expressed by the Prime Minister:

I would not ask this power from any parliament except reluctantly, and I so stated when I introduced the resolution the other day. But, sir, after this discussion between my colleagues

Unemployment Continuance Act

and myself, and taking into consideration the views expressed to ns by others who look at the matter dispassiontely and from the outside, dare we as a government, charged with tremendous responsibility in this emergency of caring for this dominion to do the best of our ability, be without that power? We have said no.

And the Prime Minister adds further on:

What is a man without a weapon in the midst of armed force? What is a man who has no instrument for his protection in the midst of the strife of brigands?

I think, sir, that these few remarks make it clear why the Prime Minister wishes to have this resolution adopted. But before placing a weapon in the hands of the Prime Minister, we have the duty to put to him three questions: Why the need of this weapon?

Does the present state of affairs in this country warrant granting such a request? Against whom will this weapon be turned if parliament grants him what he wishes? In other words, what has the Prime Minister of Canada to fear?

I really wonder whether the Prime Minister has not begun to realize that his 1930 campaign, which consisted in depicting with gruesome colours the situation, by exaggerating unemployment and the distress which may have existed, and in stating that should he assume power he would adopt a policy which would immediately bring back prosperity, had given rise to hopes which vanished but nevertheless, left among our people a feeling of deception which was more bitter and cruel among those who had reposed their trust in his pledges. He wished, in 1930, to sow the wind, but he fears to-day to reap the whirlwind. I state, sir, that if the Prime Minister and his colleagues fear that their policy is the cause of so much discontent in this country, not only should we not authorize them to do what they please on behalf of peace and order but it is our duty to let them know that they are to blame for this discontent and that their presence at the head of the administration is a challenge to the maintenance of peace, order and good government in this country. Like all who claim exorbitant powers, and follow only their whims and fancies, the Prime Minister imagined that he had but to raise his voice to have this resolution adopted. Had he given it a thought he would have understood that the Liberal members could never consent to approve a measure which despoils them of their parliamentary rights. He would have realized that notwithstanding all the coercive means at his disposal and the closure which he now applies, the Liberal party will expose before the people the loathsome character of this measure.

There is another point to which I want

to draw the attention of the house. The government by virtue of this act has passed laws on many questions: they have, however, neglected the Canadian farmer; they seem to have ignored him entirely. Last year, when the government granted to the western farmers a rebate of five cents per bushel of wheat, we asked that the same favour, the same bonus be given to those in the east who were in the dairy industry. They refused. We again make the same request this year. The budget has not been brought down yet, therefore the government can still meet our request. The Quebec farmer-I trust the Conservative members of that province, who hear me, will join us in making this request- the Quebec farmer as well, I stated, requests the Prime Minister to cease dabbling solely in high finance and to introduce measures which will improve the situation. The Unemployment Relief Act, as its t-tie indicates, was adopted to help those out of work and endeavour to relieve the distress of the farming class. Rather than apply this act where it was needed most, the government made use of it to amend the Bank Act. Instead of having an order in council passed to amend the Bank Act, would it not have been preferable to amend the Farm Loan Act?

Some hon. MEMBERS (Translation): Hear, hear!

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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LIB

Wilfrid Girouard

Liberal

Mr. GIROUARD (Translation):

All farmers in the east want to see this act amended, they wish to look forward to some improvement. I received, recently, from the "Union Catholique des Cultivateurs de Quebec, Inc." -many members of which are to be found in my constituency-a letter dated March 18. 1932, and signed by the president of that association. The following are a few extracts from this letter:

We believe that our farmers deserve the support of the Dominion government just as much as those of the western provinces to whom was granted a rebate of 5 cents per bushel of wheat for export purposes. Farm loans proportionate to the needs of our farmers are urgently needed. It would be necessary therefore that the loans be 50 per cent of the value of the property, landed property and buildings and that the borrowers be not held to subscribe to the association funds.

Further on the letter states:

The "Union Catholique des Cultivateurs" at three different meetings, adopted a resolution to request that the Bankruptcy Act be so amended as to exclude from its provisions the farmers and settlers whose credit it destroys.

Mr. OSCAR L. BOULANGER (Bellechasse) (Translation): I wish to take this opportunity to participate, once more, in this debate so as to complete the remarks which I made

Unemployment Continuance Act

the other day with reference to the failure

of this act, so far as the farmers I represent are interested, and which we are now called upon to revive. However, previous to broaching my subject, I wish to discuss an attempt made by the Prime Minister to patch up the present debate. In the course of his speech last Wednesday, the Prime Minister contended that the fighting spirit shown by the Liberal members in the house was simply that of poor losers, that it was out of spite and disappointment for having lost the election that the opposition opposed the renewal of this act, which is designated as the "blank cheque act." I protest against this statement of the Prime Minister and his attempt to qualify this debate as a pitiful one. If we have taken up this struggle, it is because there is a principle involved, and I cannot admit that a question of principle is beyond the comprehension of the Prime Minister and his followers. If there are poor losers in this house, if there are members who took advantage of this debate to vent their spite and disappointment, they certainly are our hon. friends, the Conservative members from Quebec.

In the course of this debate they rehearsed the wrangling of the Quebec election-which took plaice last August-they reenacted' the comedy of wholesale election contestations and referred to the Dillon Act. To sum up they took advantage of this debate to throw mud at their province-

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND FARM RELIEF
Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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CON

Charles Napoléon Dorion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DORION (Translation):

It is soiled

enough, under the present regime.

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Subtopic:   CONTINUANCE ACT, 1932-CONSIDERATION OP RESOLUTION
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March 29, 1932