November 22, 1932

LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I am well aware that riding on freight trains is against the law, but I know also that that law was not enforced, that the government lifted the ban for a while.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

They did not.

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LAB
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

They did not.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

The papers stated that the law was not being enforced, and the government gave notice that thirty days after a certain date the law would be enforced. Surely that is an implication that the law was not being enforced.

I should like to deal with the conditions which exist in the relief camps. I shall read first an extract from a despatch from Ottawa _ giving a description of these camps. It reads:

_ In these camps, in which up-to-date sanitation has been installed and free medical attention will be given, food, shelter and clothing will be provided.

Opposed to that description, I have the following letter from a gentleman in Winnipeg which seems to indicate that conditions are not as described in the press:

I have been asked by a committee of men, who are working at Riding Mountain park, to bring to your attention the utterly disgraceful situation which exists there. Picture to yourself a tar paper shack 79 feet x 24 with no window's, along each side there is a row of double deck bunks, these are spaced off with 8x1 board so that there is room for two men in each bunk. The bunks are filled with straw and you crawl into them from the foot end. Along the front, of the lower bunk a narrow board is placed upon Which the men may sit. The place is very meagrely lighted and ventilation by three skylights. There are two stoves in the shack in front one of which eordwood is piled up. So narrow is the passageway between the bunks that when the men are sitting on the bench there is scarcely room to pass between them. This shack 79 x 24 houses 88 men. There is a marked resemblance to a hog pen or a dog pound. At all times the place reeks of the foul smell and at night the air is simply fetid. The floor is dirty and the end of the shack, where there is a trough where the men wash, the floor is caked with black mud. I asked several old-timers their opinion of it and they state in fact that it is without any question the worst camp they have ever seen on the American continent. The toilet is thoroughly filthy, unsanitary, and far too small.

And again:

The terrible thing about it is that many of the men who are congregated in this camp are teen aged Canadian boys forced into close association with mature men, who have tramped the streets and bummed their w'ay through the country, with the result that the outlook of

these boys stands a good chance of being completely warped and their characters so degraded and demoralized that their future is unquestionably seriously menaced.

The question may be asked: Why do men

suffer such indignities, and four reasons are given in the letter, as follows:

1. Fourteen miles from the nearest railway.

2. Stool pigeons who report the least attempt at organization.

3. Intermittent surveillance by mounted police.

4. General breaking down of morale.

These men are said to be paid twenty cents a day and their board and are working on the completion of an eighteen hole golf course.

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CON

Henry Alfred Mullins

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MULLINS:

The hon. gentleman is

entirely wrong in his statement. That camp is located in my constituency and I take exception to his remarks. That letter is absolutely wrong. Those men are taken in and used in the very best way. Their camp is far better than the one at Camp Hughes and the other camps in western Canada. Those men are well treated.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I hope that what the hon. gentleman has said may be correct, but I say that the letter from which I have read from a man who I believe thinks he is telling me the truth, and this is another condition which ought to be investigated.

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CON

Henry Alfred Mullins

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MULLINS:

The hon. gentleman knows that when I tell him it is wrong, it is wrong.

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CON

Ira Delbert Cotnam

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. COTNAM:

Has the hon. gentleman attempted to verify the statements he is making before giving them to the house and the country?

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I have under my hand a letter just received from Dominion, Nova Scotia, in which he may be interested as to conditions in that part of the country. The miners who sign their names to this document report the following survey of their

district:

Number of families visited 286

Number of people included in above

families 1,601

Number of children under 16 years

of age 813

Number of children eligible for school 515

Number of children under school age. 298

Number of persons over 16 years

never employed 133

Total income of entire number of

families $1,434 50

Average income per head per week. . 0 89

Total number of women in delicate health needing nourishment and unable to get same due to lack of

funds 50

Total number of children delicate,

underfed, and underweight 175

Unemployment-Mr. Bennett

Total number of people unable to work through old age, sickness and physical disability, and no income

of any kind 15

Total number of families in dire need

of clothes, bed clothes, etc 265

Total number of families in arrears

for rent 165

Evictions pending 5

A note says:

We have retained the original sheets, signed by the parties visited, which are open for inspection to all concerned.

If I come to Montreal I find conditions not so very different. I have under my hand a long statement by Alderman J. Schubert. Among other things he says:

Thus $3.19 rvas the highest amount paid per person per month in the form of relief.

And again:

The average family in Montreal has never received more than $17 per month according to the figures of September, 1932.

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LIB
LAB
IND
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

This is Alderman J. Schubert of the city of Montreal. He says:

There were 32,898 people registered as unemployed on the fifteenth of October, 1932.

He says further that the following are not included in this:

Single men are not allowed to register unless they have dependents. Men who are not of six months' residence in the city are not allowed to register. Married men who are boarding, and whose families are elsewhere, are considered as single men. It is needless to add that women are not registered. Also, those unemployed who were once employed as office workers, clerks, typists, stenographers, salesmen, accountants, bookkeepers, machinists, printers, bookbinders, tailors, and highly skilled mechanics, are not registered.

So that there is an enormous volume of unemployed in Montreal. I do not think I need to go into a survey of Ontario. Mr. H. M. Cassidy of Toronto university a few months ago published a survey and report on unemployment and relief in Ontario.

In my own city the situation is very bad. The other day I received a letter from a minister of the United Church, who has a pastorate in one of the suburbs. He wrote me as follows:

The weather is still mild although there has been much snow and rain recently. We are glad because there is no money in our house but seventy-five cents in my purse. . . .

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CON

Armand Renaud La Vergne (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER:

The hon. member has spoken for forty minutes.

53719-92 k

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Right Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, the discussion that

is now proceeding is on a motion that the house resolve itself into committee of ways and means. Yesterday evening I directed attention to the fact that I believed the amendment that was proposed was not in order. I did so, not because I had any desire to curtail the discussion, as the hon. gentleman who has just taken his seat (Mr. Woodsworth) has suggested, but I used these words:

The government has no objection to the fullest possible discussion of any question, within the rules, on going into committee of ways and means or supply, but it is another thing altogether when a motion of want of confidence is raised in this manner. Therefore 1 regard it as my duty to direct attention to the fact that the rules of the house do not contemplate more than one debate on the same matter during the same session, involving in either case a motion of want of confidence in the. administration.

Later I said:

Tn the meantime, the discussion can proceed on the motion to go into ways and means. It is only the question of the amendment that I am directing attention to. but there is no reason why the discussion should not proceed for the next twenty minutes.

Which meant that we reached the hour of eleven o'clock. I desire to make it abundantly clear, despite what the hon. gentleman has said, that the government has no desire in any sense to curb, lessen, restrict or restrain the discussion; on the contrary, we invite the fullest discussion with respect to the matter that has been brought to the attention of the house. The only reason I had for suggesting that the amendment was out of order was the one I have given, namely, that I am frequently reminded by hon. members that in the position I occupy I am responsible for the proper conduct of the business of the house. The rule is there and when I directed attention to the rule I did so in very moderate language, raising the question as clearly as I could; because I do not think it is conducive to the proper conduct of the business of the house that we should invite decisions upon the same matter more than once in the same session. The rule against that is clear, and only for that purpose did I direct attention to it, believing, as I did, that it was my duty to do so. I think on mature consideration the hon. gentleman will realize that there was no desire on my part to prevent discussion but rather that we should endeavour as far as possible to observe the rules that have been laid down for the conduct of the business of the house.

Unemployment-Mr. Bennett

When by reason of the position which I occupy I am sometimes blamed for not seeing that the rules are observed, I can only add that at times I hesitate to direct attention to what I conceive it to be the duty of the Chair itself to recognize, namely, that there has or has not been a breach of the rules of the house. The Chair of its own motion takes cognizance of the fact that an amendment is or is not in order. In Great Britain that is the almost universal custom. It is, however, the duty of the leader of the house, whoever he may happen to be, to direct attention to the fact if in his judgment the course suggested is not in accordance with the rules. I mention that because I say again that the hon. gentleman suggested that this was an effort to prevent discussion. No such effort was made or conlemplated. Yesterday evening I made it abundantly clear, as I do again now, that the fullest possible discussion may, so far as the government is concerned, be carried on. If there is any doubt upon that point, it can easily be settled by the action of the members themselves in that regard.

I would have preferred to make the statement I am about to make after the reassembling of the house on the 30th of January. It will be within the memory of most hon. members that on the 29th of April, 1931, I made a statement with respect to the question of unemployment. In the course of that statement I discussed at some length the question of unemployment or of social insurance that might become the subject matter of legislation to deal with the question of unemployment and allied problems. I pointed out why the government of Canada could not introduce legislation to deal with that matter. Roughly the reasons are two. One is purely a constitutional or legal reason; the other is an economic reason because of lack of information with respect to the subject matter then under discussion-The first reason has been so fully stated to this house on so many occasions that I shall not do more than refer to it very briefly. The right hon. leader of the opposition, as long ago as 1922, his views being concurred in by the Right Hon. Mr. Meighen, then leading the opposition, said, and in my judgment said truly, that questions of relief arising from any cause, whether from unemployment or from other causes that have brought about the necessity for relief in every province of Canada during the entire life of those provinces, rests primarily with the municipalities, and then with the provinces; but that if extraordinary conditions prevail, as did in 1922, and as did again in 1930, then the

national character of those conditions may necessitate recourse being had to the federal authority by the provincial authorities to enable the matter to be dealt with.

In 1931, on April 29, as I have said, I directed attention to that matter in some detail. I pointed out what I think is common ground taken by all who have studied the question, that there is a clear distinction between an extraordinary national condition and what is called, in the language of the law books, a national emergency. Unemployment is not a national emergency. It may be a national condition involving the necessity of federal assistance to the provinces; but the fact that the second largest province in the Dominion has made it abundantly clear that it would not tolerate interference on the part of the federal authorities indicates clearly that all that the federal parliament can do by way of legislation is to assist the provinces in the discharge of their constitutional obligations. That course has been pursued by this government. It is the course that has been pursued by parliament on every occasion upon which a similar condition has prevailed. The magnitude of the disease of unemployment from which the body politic now suffers does not in any sense change or modify the character of the obligations resting upon the federal authority. I shall not do more than direct attention to the fact that the definition of the words "national emergency" has been so limited by judicial decision as to make it fairly clear that anything in the nature of national unemployment spreading over the country from one end to the other does not constitute such a national emergency. That is the judgment of the court of last resort so far as we are concerned.

The problem of jurisdiction therefore, to quote once more the language of the right hon. leader of the opposition, raises the question, on the one hand, of the conflict between property and civil rights, which are solely within the jurisdiction of the provincial legislatures, and, on the other hand, the national obligations of the dominion when it conceives a condition to prevail that warrants assistance to the provinces to enable them to discharge their duties. The question of jurisdiction therefore is at the bottom of all relief which is of a permanent character. Any legislation that may be enacted to deal, for instance with social insurance problems must have the support of the provincial authorities. I made that abundantly clear on more than one occasion here, and it was agreed to I think by every member of the house who had taken the trouble to consider the question. Now pres-

Unemployment-Mr. Bennett

sure has been brought to bear by various organizations throughout the dominion to ensure the passage of what is known as contributory unemployment insurance legislation. That legislation, to be effective in this country, with jurisdiction divided between the provincial legislatures and the federal parliament, could have validity only, if it had the sanction both of the legislatures and of parliament. That I think has been conceded. But that difficulty is one that can be overcome. It can be overcome rather readily if the provinces will agree to such an amendment to our constitution as will clothe parliament with the appropriate authority.

It has been the purpose of this government to call an interprovincial conference between now and the date of the reassembling of this house, to discuss with the representatives of the provinces of Canada this and other problems. I pointed out to the house with respect to another matter that we had hoped to have an interprovincial conference at an early date. Conditions made it impossible to hold that conference last fall. I need hardly point out to this chamber that the government had so much work to do, and the members of this administration were so pushed and driven by the responsibilities that rested upon them that there was not an adequate opportunity to discuss and consider many matters which an interprovincial conference should take under advisement. But we have been making arrangements for such a conference. I had hoped that we would be able to have the conference without making any statement to the house, and that we might be able to report the result of its deliberations after the house reassembled. 1 find it incumbent upon me now to make the statement which I have just made.

There are other questions to consider besides those affecting social insurance and social problems. There are problems with respect to taxation. There are problems with respect to the Companies Act. It has been found by many investors in this country that companies operating under a dominion charter have imposed upon them, and we had contemplated, in fact had drafted, legislation that as we conceived it would amply protect investors against what they have suffered in days gone by, and recently; but it was idle to enact such legislation, for every one of the nine provinces of Canada could grant corporate existence to the same gentlemen who sought to obtain it if they were refused it here. We should have a uniform Companies Act in Canada; that is the law that provides for the creation of an artificial entity. It is a privilege that is conferred, and that law, it seems to me, should, if possible, be uniform

in every province throughout this dominion. But that is a most difficult problem. Tho commission on uniformity of legislation, which came into being largely through the efforts of the Canadian Bar Association, has endeavoured with respect to partnership law, with respect to wills, and with respect to other matters of that kind, to ensure that we shall have uniform provisions throughout the dominion, leaving out, of course, the provisions of the civil law in the province of Quebec. That provision, however, would not obtain with respect to companies.

With regard to the division of the field of taxation, there too is a problem of very great seriousness. I need hardly point out what every member of this house who has given any thought to it knows, that the imposition of a double income tax, sometimes three income taxes, on the same income does not invite the settlement in provinces, from the outside, of people with capital. We have now two income taxes in many provinces, one by the federal and one by the provincial authority; in some others we have no provincial income tax but a municipal income tax. This question has engaged the attention of the governments of the provinces as well as of the government of this dominion. One of the ministers of finance was of the opinion that the field as far as private and individual incomes were concerned should be left to the provinces, and perhaps corporation incomes should be the field to be taken by the dominion. This too is a matter which we hope we may be able to discuss at an interprovincial conference.

There remain many other questions, one for instance being in connection with insurance, about which we have been carrying on negotiations and discussions, the Right Hon. Arthur Meighen representing the federal power, and the Premier of Quebec and the Attorney General of Ontario representing the provincial viewpoint. There are differing views there. Some of the western provinces feel that the burden cast upon them, if they undertook to regulate insurance business within the terms of the judgment of the court of last resort, would be too onerous and too expensive. That also must be considered.

There are many other matters which I will not dwell upon, but this is one which we have set down as being of tremendous importance to every part of this dominion. I take it that the judgment of the house, broadly speaking, was that any measure of social insurance should be contributory in its character, that it could not be otherwise. All the representations that have been made to me with respect to the matter lead to that conclusion.

Unemployment-Mr. Bennett

I shall not tonight traverse again the ground covered in my address to this house on the 29th of April, 1931. I indicated there the factors that had to be considered. There was one factor to which I particularly directed attention; it was referred to last evening by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre; that is that a measure of unemployment insurance, to have any value whatever, must be based upon actuarial understanding of the situation. I pointed out what I take it is within the memory of every member of this house, that the British unemployment insurance legislation was predicated upon actuarial computation. The difficulties arose because it was found in practice that the fund had to borrow to enable it to discharge its obligations, and the borrowings became so great that, in the language of the government of the day, it threatened the very solvency of the state itself. Hence the difficulties to which reference has been made on more than one occasion in this house. The actuarial computations with respect to this matter cannot be mere guesswork. 1 ventured to point out to the house in April, 1931, that if they were to have any value, if in the language of one hon. gentleman who has spoken in this discussion we are to derive any benefit from the knowledge of the past, it can only be because we can rely upon it to enable us to go forward with plans and proposals that will not be shipwrecked because they are based upon guesswork. I pointed out then that the census would be taken in 1931, and I further pointed out that when the census was completed we proposed to have the figures disclosed by the census so analyzed as to enable us to deal with the subject, assuming, as we did, that we might be able to make a satisfactory arrangement with the provinces. I therefore desire to make it perfectly clear that in pursuance of the statement which I then made, and which I shall now read, it is the purpose of this government to have a conference of the provinces to determine what action may be agreed upon with respect to this and other matters. In that regard these words were used by me on April 29, 1931, as found on page 1103 of Hansard:

Under those circumstances, with a census about to be taken and the necessary figures to become available, with our actuarial force willing and ready to tackle the problem from the angles that I have suggested, does any hon. gentleman think that we would be doing justice to the Dominion of Canada or to ourselves if we now passed a resolution asking the government immediately to do something which it is not equipped to do? I propose, if we are spared as a government and as individuals, that the information we will have before our term of office is ended shall be crystallized

into the form of legislative proposals to be submitted to this house. I have never had any illusions as to what is involved; I have none now. I have never had any desire other than that the legislation placed upon the statute book, whether by this government or by some other, shall be legislation based upon knowledge, and not upon mere guesswork.

And I further said in the concluding words of my observations with respect to a contributory form of insurance:

I say once more that this country will not produce men of the character it has had until men and women begin to realize that life means responsibilities and that one of those responsibilities is to help themselves. That is the only method by which social legislation can effectively and efficiently be enacted. Of that I feel quite certain. Whatever my reading and inquiries may be worth, I have satisfied myself quite clearly that in whatever we do in this regard we must recognize and realize that insurance involves premiums and premiums should be paid by the joint action alike of the insurer and the insured themselves and with the assistance of the state. In that sense, if the hon. gentleman is prepared to accept the suggestions I make, 1 say to him on behalf ot the administration that, at the earliest possible moment consistent with obtaining information that is essential to make any measure of social insurance worth while, we will use that information for the purpose of preparing and submitting to this house a measure embodying the views I have expressed.

That was my statement on the 29th of April, 1931. I merely rise at this moment to reiterate and restate it.

I was rather surprised that the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, who, 1 judge from what he said, has made careful inquiry into the matter, was not aware of the fact that the census figures to which I referred, despite the utmost efforts of those charged with the responsibility to complete them, had been only partly prepared within the last month; it will not be until after the turn of the year that we shall have a complete set of figures which will enable us with certainty to present the matter to this house. That I am told by the chief statistician is the present condition. We have anxiously, and my colleague the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Stevens) has persistently endeavoured, to expedite the making available of this information. But it is not easy to do it. If any hon. gentleman desires to visit the chief statistician's office and learn just what is involved, he will understand why we have not that information at the moment. It was because of these facts that, as I have said, I would have preferred to make this statement after the house has reassembled and we shall have accomplished what we had in mind, namely the completion of our discussions with the provincial authorities,

Unemployment-Mr. Bennett

and, availing ourselves of the analysis of the figures supplied by the census department, the submission to our draftsmen of the skeleton of what we conceived to be the necessary measure to meet the situation that exists.

I shall not traverse the ground with respect to what the government has done; the Minister of Labour (Mr. Gordon) will deal with that phase of the question. I can only say this: I do not believe the hon. member for

Winnipeg North Centre advances his cause one whit when he reads letters from unknown sources that, to the knowledge of more than one member on this side of the house, contain statements that are incorrect. The minister charged with responsibility for the work that was carried on in Riding Mountain park visited that point for the purpose of observing just what were the facilities provided for the care of those working there, and the expressions of satisfaction on the part of those engaged in that work is, I conceive, the best answer that can be given to the complaints that have been made.

Nor shall I review in detail the statements that have been made as to the impoverished condition that exists in certain sections of this dominion. Sometimes I wonder if it is worth while reminding this chamber, or any body of men and women, that nineteen hundred years ago this statement was made: "For ye have the poor always with you". That has been the case for nineteen centuries. It is true that provision has been made by every province in Canada, I repeat, since it became a province, to care for its indigents, and I know of no municipality in western Canada that has not carried in its budget provision for the poor. I know of no legislature, that has not provided by a vote the means to care for those who are unable to provide for themselves. I do not refer to the sick; I refer to the indigent only.

This I should like to say, not to anticipate what will be said by the Minister of Labour at the appropriate time. Last spring the government called a meeting of representatives of the provinces, who concluded that it was not expedient to continue their efforts for relief along the lines that had prevailed theretofore. They decided they would have recourse to direct relief. The conference was very well attended; half a dozen of our ministers were there, and that conclusion having Been arrived at, the action indicated was taken. With respect to homeless single men the minister will indicate just how the effort has been made to relieve the provinces of responsibility in that regard; because we have realized that an obligation rests upon

the dominion in connection with the floating population of homeless, single men who may belong to one province but become a charge in another. The minister on more than one occasion has made it abundantly clear that as far as our effort is concerned-and we have no direct contact either with the municipality or with the individual, our business being with the provinces, the constituted authority in that regard-it is to see that no one should lack at least food, shelter and clothing. That has been the effort, and so far as we are advised that effort has succeeded. It would be easy to point out cases of apparent and perhaps real destitution, but parliament is not and cannot be the medium to care for that particular condition. It can act only through the constituted authorities, namely the provinces and the municipalities. In that regard I think our assistance at all times has been reasonably generous, and we have endeavoured to exercise such supervisions as might be reasonable without in any sense lessening the autonomy of the provinces or depriving them of their constitutional rights or jurisdiction.

I do not intend to deal further with this matter, Mr. Speaker, I shall only summarize the situation by saying that the government has in course of preparation what we believe will be an appropriate agenda to submit to an interprovincial conference. It is proposed to call that conference so that it may conclude its labours between now and January 30, when the house will reassemble. At that conference it is proposed to discuss all those matters that have engaged the attention of governments, both provincial and federal, with particular reference to the question referred to by myself on April 29, 1931, namely, the problem of unemployment and how it should be and may be dealt with under the divided jurisdiction which exists in Canada.

One further word I should add, and it is this: It is not competent for me to discuss the merits or demerits of commissions or committees of this house, but I should like to point out that parliament has no jurisdiction to appoint a federal relief commission. That is beyond our power; such a commission could not function for the very simple and obvious reason that more than one province has made it abundantly clear that they would not tolerate this interference in their business.

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LAB

Abraham Albert Heaps

Labour

Mr. HEAPS:

I should like to ask how it functioned in 1919, when the federal parliament appointed a commission.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

My answer to that question is one which I think the hon. gentleman himself will appreciate on reflection. The

Unemployment-Mr. Bennett

War Measures Act was then in force, and when I endeavoured to suggest that we should deal with the problem as one of peace, order and good government, which would bring it within the jurisdiction of this government, I was met with opposition such as will be within the memory of the house. We did succeed in securing the legislation for a limited time, but one does not like to face that sort of thing merely for the purpose of having the House of Commons sit for a month without obtaining results. With the aid of the provinces it would be competent for this parliament to enact appropriate legislation; that was done under the War Measures Act. That act now has ceased to have effect, and the condition to which the hon. gentleman has referred is a condition that no longer exists. I repeat that at the moment there is no authority on the part of this government or this parliament to appoint and clothe with appropriate powers a federal relief commission. We have done this: A representative of the Department of Labour has visited the four western provinces, and with them he has gone into this matter. They have appointed their own commissions, by means of which they are endeavouring to discharge their obligations, and the minister is giving them such assistance as may be necessary in the premises. We must realize that there are provinces in this confederation that will not tolerate the dominion interfering with or endeavouring to trench upon their jurisdiction; that they have made quite clear, and therefore any attempt on our part to create a federal unemployment or federal relief commission not only would be beyond our power but would be met at once with the resistance which any interference or trenching upon the jurisdiction of the provinces would involve.

I apologize, Mr. Speaker, for taking longer than I had expected in making this statement. I cannot promise that the legislation I mentioned in my speech of April 29, 1931, will be forthcoming, but I can promise that it will be no fault of ours if we do not meet with the provinces between now and January 30 next, and at least arrive at some conclusion with respect to those controversial matters which must be settled before any appropriate action can be taken by this parliament.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Leader of the Opposition):

I am sure the

minds of hon. gentlemen on both sides of the house will be greatly relieved at the statement which the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett), made at the opening of his remarks, which was to the effect that he had no desire to curtail discussion on the all-important ques-

tion of unemployment relief. My right hon. friend could hardly be surprised if not only those on this side of the house but the country generally gathered from what he said yesterday that such was the purpose of the administration in seeking to avoid discussion of the amendment which had been moved' and which was before the house. May I say also that that impression was made doubly strong by the ruling of his honour the Speaker and by the arguments by which the ruling was supported. The impression certainly did exist very generally that this House of Commons was not to have an opportunity to discuss further or at any considerable length the question of unemployment or unemployment relief. I am not surprised that the Prime Minister came very quickly to recognize how serious would be the consequence of a step of the kind on the part of the administration. As I gather now from the Prime Minister's remarks, the house is free to discuss, on going into committee of ways and means, or on going into committee of supply, any grievance which it may wish to bring to the attention of the administration, and to do so in pursuance of the rights which we have all along assumed and claimed belonged to the House of Commons at any time the government was asking it to consider ways and means or supply.

May I say, Mr. Speaker, that I am also pleased to find myself very largely in agreement with much that the right hon. the Prime Minister has said this evening, both as to the position of this parliament in dealing with the question of unemployment, and as to the government's intention with respect to certain legislation which I understand, it now hopes may be enacted by parliament at some subsequent session. But may I say to the Prime Minister that, if anyone is responsible for a wrong impression having been created as to the powers and duties of this parliament with respect to the relief of unemployment, that person is the right hon. gentleman himself. The position stated by the Prime Minister this evening in relation to the rights, duties and responsibilities of municipalities, provinces and the dominion with respect to unemployment relief, was the position which wras taken by myself as leader of the government when we were in office. We took the position, which had been taken by a previous administration, namely, that unemployment relief was in the first instance, the responsibility of the municipality; that it became, next, the responsibility of the provinces; and that it was only when one or more of the provinces found themselves unable to cope

Unemployment-Mr. Mackenzie King

with the problem of unemployment that it became a national emergency involving an obligation on the part of the federal government to assist the provinces in meeting the situation. That was the position which we took and maintained.

Hon. gentlemen opposite, however, know full well that, when they were sitting on this side of the house, in the two sessions immediately preceding the last general election, they consistently opposed that position, and no one more so than the present Prime Minister. He denounced us for taking an attitude of the kind, stating that it was an obligation of the federal administration. My right hon. friend not only adopted that attitude in parliament at the time, but, when an appeal was made to the country in a general election and the government of the day sought consistently to maintain in the country the position which it had taken in this house, he led an attack against the then administration on the ground that unemployment was a national obligation, and that the government in asserting the position it had taken, was seeking to evade its responsibility. May I here remind my right hon. friend how often in the course of that campaign, he said, "Mr. King promises you conferences; I promise to end unemployment."

We have heard a good deal from my right hon. friend this evening about conferences. This comes two years or more after the time at which a conference of the kind to which he refers tonight would have been held by a Liberal administration, had it been in office. No one was more emphatic throughout the last campaign than my right hon. friend in stating that the then existing condition constituted a national emergency. It was he who, over and over again in his speeches in different parts of the country, sought to arouse the people to a belief that the federal government was not doing its duty in not so regarding the situation. As my right hon. friend himself will remember, he made frequent references to the sufferings of the poor, the cries of the needy. Time and again he said that if I could not hear them, he at least could and that he would find means whereby those cries would be heard in parliament. That was the position he took at that time. It was not that the poor we have always with us. That was not what he said when appealing to the electorate. He told them in unmistakable terms that it was the duty of the federal government to see that every man who wished to work should have work. He repeatedly told the people that if he were returned to power, they would have work-work, not doles.

I have no desire at the present time to go back over the past. If the seriousness of the unemployment situation today has at least brought-

Topic:   WAYS AND MEANS-UNEMPLOYMENT
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

Topic:   WAYS AND MEANS-UNEMPLOYMENT
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November 22, 1932