February 25, 1935

LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

I presented all the figures fairly.

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CON

George Halsey Perley (Minister Without Portfolio)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE PERLEY:

Then he says

his party has suggested that we should have had a national relief commission. Well, Mr. Speaker, I can hardly visualize how such a commission could have worked throughout the country except through the local authorities. I do not think a commission here in Ottawa or in any city in Canada could handle the relief problems in the various sections of the country as well as the people of the provinces and of the municipalities themselves. The hon. gentleman says they should be under federal control and direction. He knows, as everyone in the house knows, that this question of relief is in the first instance one for the- provincial governments, and it has been so agreed by everyone.

I may tell you, Mr. Speaker, that this year the dominion government made a definite

1196 COMMONS

Unemployment Relie/-Sir George Perley

suggestion to the government of Saskatchewan that the drought area in southern Saskatchewan be taken over by the dominion government and administered without any expense to the province, but the Saskatchewan government did not see fit to accept the suggestion. I mention this to indicate to the hon. gentleman that he would have to get the provinces to change their minds before we could make any arrangement for a national relief commission, even if it were feasible to do so. My own opinion is that a national relief commission could not successfully administer relief all over this country, because the matter is, in any event, a local one which has to be dealt with by the provinces and the municipalities.

The hon. gentleman also says that we led the world in higher tariffs. Did he never hear of a country called the United States of America, I wonder? As I understand it, that is the country that has led in higher tariffs and has done so for the last forty or fifty years. All we did was to protect ourselves and our workmen against the competition of the United States with their high tariff, and I may say to my hon. friend that had we not done that we should have had a great many more unemployed in this country than we have had. Any action we have taken in that respect has all been to the good.

In the absence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) who unfortunately has a cold today, I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether there is any member of the house who does not admire the courage of the Right Hon. R. B. Bennett? I do not care whether he be Liberal or Conservative, on which side of the house he may sit, whether he agrees with the Prime Minister's policies or not, hon. members must admire his courage and the fortitude with which he has carried on during these four or five years. I wonder whether during the time the Liberals were in power the Prime Minister of that day showed any courage in dealing with various problems, or whether he simply drifted with the tide, and in the years of plenty, with abounding revenues, and everything prosperous-

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hurrah!

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CON

George Halsey Perley (Minister Without Portfolio)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE PERLEY:

I agree, but the Liberals had no more to do with it than anybody else. It was due to world conditions, and instead of taking advantage of those prosperous times and laying aside some of the abounding revenues and making preparations for a rainy day, they spent all the money they had and left us with a lot of obligations to fulfil which had been arranged 'or before the election.

The hon. member for Vancouver Centre has quoted some remarks of the Liberal leader and others to the effect that the government should go on with their reform legislation and their relief legislation without letting anything else interfere with it. I ask in all fairness whether there has ever been a session of this house when the business of the country has been as well prepared and gone on with as expeditiously as it has this session. We have been sitting here for only five or six weeks, and much of the legislation promised by the Prime Minister has already been put on the order paper. Some of these measures it is impossible to bring forward until a report has been made by the mass buying commission, which I understand is now in course of preparation and will be presented before long. So, Mr. Speaker, I say that any suggestion from the hon. gentleman or anyone else that this government has not been ready with its legislation or has not gone on as fast as possible with the program promised by the Prime Minister is making a statement which is not based upon fact. The Prime Minister promised measures of reform. Some of them are already before the house, and others will be brought down as soon as possible, but some of them, as I have just said, must await the report of the mass buying commission. I say to the hon. gentleman with all humility that as far as this government is concerned there has been no delay whatever, and I repeat that there has been no session when the business of the house was better prepared or was proceeded with more expeditiously than has been the case during the present session.

The amendment proposed by the hon. gentleman on a motion to go into supply was framed, I take it, largely for the purpose of giving him an opportunity to speak more than forty minutes. It is a motion that it is impossible for the gove'mment to accept, because it is not based on any facts that he has brought forward this evening, nor has the hon. gentleman submitted to the house any proposal or suggestion for a better solution of the unemployment problem than has been afforded by this government in its legislation of the last four years. The problem of unemployment has received and is receiving consideration every day from the government, and must do so as anyone can understand; and any measures which are to be submitted to parliament in connection with unemployment relief will be brought down in due course. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I would ask the house to reject the motion of the hon. gentleman.

Unemployment Relief-Mr. Gray

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LIB

Ross Wilfred Gray

Liberal

Mr. R. W. GRAY (West Lambton):

Mr

Speaker, I appreciate the difficulty that faced the acting Prime Minister (Sir George Perley) when he attempted to reply to the very brilliant speech of my colleague from Vancouver Centre (Mr. Mackenzie). In view of the fact that his leader, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) has not announced any definite policy with respect to this important matter of unemployment, and that we have not been able to receive one from the Minister of Labour (Mr. Gordon), it is not difficult to understand why the acting Prime Minister should simply fall back on what has been the policy of the present government since its inception and say, as the right hon. gentleman did in his closing remarks, that "the question is being considered." I say to you, sir, that it has been considered. I have no doubt that from the very first day this government took office until this hour in the fifth year of their life, and the last I hope, they have been and are still considering this problem. We have no quarrel with the acting Prime Minister when he states that his leader has courage; we agree that he has. But one is reminded of the story of the engineer who, seeing a buffalo bull charging his engine, said " I admire your courage but I cannot admire your judgment." The right hon. gentleman points out to-night the situation that various other countries are facing and points to the fact that Canada has led in this respect. But I would remind him and other hon. members of this house of the fact that in 1930 in reply to members on this side the Prime Minister said that the concern of his party and of the people of Canada was Canada and not the United States or any other country.

I offer no apologies for taking part in this debate. Here we are in 1935 waiting for some definite pronouncement on the part of the government as to how they propose to solve this problem. In 1931 and again in 1932 we were told, as we were told the other night by the Minister of Labour, that the government was waiting to see what the provinces would propose. That might have been all right in 1931 or even in the second session of 1932; but after five years, for the Minister of Labour to come into this house and say that he is waiting to see what the provinces will propose indicates a lack of judgment and of any particular program on the part of the government to solve the problem. In my opinion the time is opportune, indeed it is long overdue, to discuss this problem because during the years this government has been in office it has deliberately delayed the discussion of unemployment relief until the dying days of the

session. This is true of every session. In 1930 they held over our heads the fact that the Prime Minister would not go to the imperial conference unless we rushed the legislation. In 1931 the house began its sittings on March 12 and it was not until July 29, or four days before prorogation, that legislation was introduced in connection with unemployment. In 1931 the act was to expire on March 1, but on March 8 it was extended for two months. In 1933 the Unemployment and Farm Relief Act was introduced on March 21, leaving seven days in which to discuss it. In 1934 the act expired on March 31 and the new act was introduced on March 22, and the house adjourned on March 28 until after Easter, leaving only about four days to discuss the measure, including the time necessary for the Senate to pass it.

I submit therefore that we have a right to bring this matter as forcibly as possibly to the attention of the government in the hope that they will appreciate the problem and take some definite action. I do not wish to weary the house by a repetition of what was promised in connection with unemployment, but it is necessary for one to go back to the election of 1930 in order to bring before the house and the country the steps or lack of steps taken by the government to solve the problem.

On July 10, 1930, speaking at Moncton, the present Prime Minister said:

The Conservative party is going to find work for all who are willing to work, or perish in the attempt. It is going to call parliament at the earliest possible date after July 28 and take such steps as will end this tragic condition of unemployment and bring prosperity to the country ag a whole. . . . Mr. King promises consideration of the problem of unemployment. I promise to end unemployment. Which plan do you like best?

At Victoria on June 17 he said:

We cannot tolerate the dole. Men and women of this country want work, not charity. ... Is there any excuse for Canada to have hard times if the government is discharging its duties as it should?

Then he spoke in Quebec as follows:

There was no necessity for a conference on unemploylment, he continued. The solution was too apparent. "What you want is work," he exclaimed, "not conferences, and you are going to get work." Unless his promises to the People of Canada were kept if elected to office, Mr. Bennett said he wanted Quebec and other members of his party to vote him out of office.

Let me give a brief review of the legislation that has been passed. In 1930, at the special session, some tariff changes were introduced, and the Prime Minister and other speakers on the other side declared that these changes would result in increased employment in

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P.C. 2043


Whereas unemployment is primarily a municipal and provincial responsibility, it has been so general throughout Canada as to constitute a national concern. I ask hon. members to note that, because as we trace the years down, we shall find a decided change on the part of the government. Encouraged by the dominion government, without guidance and without the relief commission suggested by my right hon. leader at the time and at subsequent sessions in order that there might be cooperation not only between the dominion and the provinces but among the dominion, the provinces and the municipalities, the municipalities, seeing what seemed to them at that time to be easy money, launched into an orgy of spending which in many cases has left them almost bankrupt. During the session of 1931-32, municipalities built everything from the town pump at $200 right up to one project on which the city of Toronto spent some $2,500,000. Some two hundred and thirty-six municipalities in Ontario alone took advantage of what appeared to them to be easy money. They were paying only fifty per cent of the cost, but they forgot that even if it was only fifty per cent, there would be a day of reckoning. In Ontario, under the encouragement of the government of the day and without any guidance, as I have said, we spent some $20,000,000 of which the municipalities paid fifty per cent. In spite of that, in spite of these public expenditures the total number taking direct relief in January, 1932, was 741,000, and in May of that year there were still 569.000 on direct relief. Too late the government recognized that this particular FEBRUARY 25, 1935 [DOT] Unemployment Relief-Mr. Gray scheme of giving money to the provinces and through them to the municipalities was a mistake, and we find for the first and perhaps the only time that even the present Prime Minister, speaking in London immediately after the session of 1932, was just a little pessimistic, when one considers the character of the right hon. gentleman. Speaking in London on June 1, 1932, as reported in the press of the following day, the right hon. gentleman had this to say: It has been said that during the election campaign I promised to cure unemployment Under normal conditions I think I would have done so. Does this sound like the man who was prepared to blast his way through all our troubles and difficulties? There was a doubt in his mind. Were the Prime Minister and his government called upon to cure the unemployment situation in normal times? Yet we find him stating in June, 1932, that he thought he might have cured unemployment had normal times returned. Did the right hon. gentleman at that moment have any constructive suggestion to make with respect to the cure of unemployment? No; instead he delivered one of his famous lectures, of which he is so fond, to the Canadian people. He told us that the Canadian people stood in need of the discipline which the depression was bringing. These were his words: The amazing prosperity of the years before 1930 cost the people of Canada much in the loss of discipline. Luxuries became necessities. Men and women yielded' to the mad caprices of the moment. Every man had to have every luxury. People would buy nothing made in Canada if they could buy from some place else. To-day self-reliance and restraint are needed to meet the crisis in the nation's life. I am sure the house will agree with me that the average farmer, workingman or citizen did not spend his money in riotous living and does not deserve the punishment he has been taking during these years from 1930 to 1935. What nonsense to say that the people of Canada would not buy in this country if they could buy somewhere else when we find that between 1923 and 1930 industrial production mounted more than double. Yet the Prime Minister continues to give these lectures to the people of Canada. Does it lighten the load, does it help the people to bear the burden under which they are suffering to-day to be told, as we were on Thursday last, that our children are healthier because of the food that the authorities buy for them? Does it help to lighten the load to know that the food for which people have to line up, taking not even cash but voucher tickets to some grocer or butcher, is going to make their children a little healthier, or that the lives of the wives who are wearing dresses that have 'been turned into tire relief quarters will foe lengthened a little by the clothes they are wearing? Those were the remarks the Prime Minister made as late as Thursday of last week. The session of 1932-33 was opened on October 7, 1932, with a direct admission on the part of the Prime Minister that the scheme of public works in this country had been abandoned and we were to go upon this dole which he abhorred, which shocked the national conscience, and in fact an unorganized dole at that. Unemployment was mounting by leaps and bounds, those on direct relief at that particular time, February, 1933, numbering 1,395,961. Yet at the opening of the session of 1934, we find in the speech from the throne these words: Since prorogation, my government, under the authority of the Relief Act, 1933, have continued to assist financially the provinces in the discharge of their constitutional obligations. What those obligations are, we find when we read Hansard of April 10, 1934. On that day the hon. member for West Edmonton (Mr. Stewart) was recalling to the Prime Minister his famous speech in Calgary on June 13, 1930, in which he stated-and I shall read not more than a line or two: I will not permit this country with my voice or vote to ever become committed to the dole system Then the hon. member completed the paragraph in which the Prime Minister stated that he would give work to all. The hon. member for West Edmonton continued: I do not think I need to read any more, but I have here a great many statements of a similar character that were made by the right hon. gentleman. I say, as I have said on former occasions, that T assumed the right hon. gentleman meant what he said when he used those words. Mr. Bennett: So he did. I said it was a national problem, and so it was. Mr. Stewart (Edmonton): A national problem, and you were going to provide work. Mr. Bennett: Certainly. Mr. Stewart (Edmonton): And not doles. Mr. Bennett: We did not provide the doles. The provinces provide the doles. What an amazing answer! What an amazing admission by the Prime Minister of this country! We are assisting the provinces to discharge their constitutional obligations. We do not provide the doles, the provinces provide the doles. Let me tell you the situation as we have had it in Ontario during 1934. Immediately following the interprovincial conference in



Unemployment Reliej-Mr. Gray January of last year the then, Premier of Ontario, returning to Toronto, announced the substitution of a big public works program for direct relief, to be put into effect as rapidly as possible. That is the report in the Mail and Empire of Saturday, January 20, 1934- . .. We in Ontario will carry on as before with the assurance that the dominion government will cooperate to the fullest extent. With the assurance that the dominion would cooperate with the Ontario government during 1934, an assurance which has not yet been denied by the Prime Minister or the Minister of Labour (Mr. 'Gordon), the Premier of Ontario launched into a tremendous road building program in May, 1934. New roads were opened, old roads were widened, ditches were filled, in a frantic effort to win the election in Ontario; and now after some $8,000,000 has been spent throughout the counties of Ontario the dominion government refuse to contribute its share and the province and the municipalities of Ontario are left holding the bag. I say further in connection with Ontario, and I assume the situation is similar in other provinces, that they have been left in a state of uncertainty during these years in view of the fact that the Prime Minister and the government have frequently threatened to cut off relief at any moment. There has been no set program, nothing to enable the provinces to say: This is the program; this is the policy of the dominion government, and we are prepared to march forward in cooperation with it. Yet during all these years, as pointed out by the hon. member for Vancouver Centre, enormous sums have been spent by this government; as of March 28, 1934, guarantees of some $96,000,000, loans to the provinces of some $52,000,000, and cash under relief measures amounting to $115,000,000. Having spent these enormous sums I claim that my right hon. leader was correct when he urged even at the very first session that there should be an audit of these various expenditures. One has only to look at the report of the auditor general, not only of last year but of this year, in which he complains that he has been understaffed, that the scope of his examinations has been limited because he has not been given the required assistance, and that large sums of money had been over-contributed by the dominion, as indicated on page 25 of his report. From the report of unemployment commissioner Hereford, we find that he has a staff of only some thirty-five to administer this huge matter, and when one considers that only a few days ago in the course of discussion on rMr. Gray.] the unemployment insurance measure we heard that there might be a commission with a staff of three or four thousand people, one realizes exactly how little the government have really studied this situation. They are prepared now, and I am not finding any fault with it, to set up an economic council; yet when we urged them repeatedly to set up an unemployment commission they steadfastly refused. In spite of all that has been said with respect to these figures-and I have shown how they have mounted-what has happened? As the hon. member for Vancouver Centre has shown, in spite of all these things the Prime Minister has been going up and down this country and from one end to the other telling the people of Canada that we are on the road to prosperity. I propose to give only one or two quotations. Speaking at Montreal on May 11, 1931, he said: I think there are some evidences that we have reached the dead level of depression and that the movement from now on will be upward. At Ottawa on January 31, 1932, in a new year's message, he said: In my belief the worst is over. Canada has survived the crisis, and the same spirit and the same strength which have withstood the stress and strain of the past year will carry us over all intervening difficulties into an era of prosperity hitherto unknown. In December, 1932, at London, he said: Next year will see the beginning of an era of prosperity. At Winnipeg on October 10, 1933, he said' Canada is standing on the threshold of recovery. On December 3, 1933, he told an audience at Sherbrooke, Quebec: There are distinct evidences the catastrophe has ended. The dead rock bottom of the depression has been reached. Then as late as the summer of 1934 we find him telling a Montreal audience: I believe we have passed and left behind us the great depression we encountered in 1929 and 1930____ We are standing on the threshold of a greater progress and a greater prosperity than we have ever known. All during these years we have been at the dead rock bottom, climbing the hill, turning the corner, weathering the storm, seeing the light, and in all that time the Prime Minister, to whom we looked for leadership in connection with this all important problem, was giving us this bright picture as he saw it. It culminated on January 2 of this year-that is an important date-with the new Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Hanson) publishing a full page advertisement entitled Cana- Public Works Program, dian Cavalcade. In the background we see boats lying at the piers, the smokfi belching from the factories, the wheat fields being reaped with combines, and we read these lines, amazing in view of what took place that very evening: As the year 1934 passes into history, Canada can look back upon a period of unimpaired progress so definitely sustained that it has brought us to the pathway that leads to a sound, sensible, and stable prosperity. The advance that we, as a country, have made during the past year has demonstrated anew the inherent strength and stability of the dominion. We have seen the faith to which we held so firmly in the darker days abundantly fulfilled-the confidence to which we clung in gloomier years triumphantly vindicated. With clearer skies above us, and firmer ground beneath our feet, we have advanced with unimpaired progress along the road of national reconstruction and economic recuperation. How was the new Minister of Trade and Commerce to know that his leader, who had been recognized as- At once the cook and the captain bold And the mate of the Nancy brig. And the bo'sun tight and the midshipmite, And the crew of the Nancy brig- -was that very evening to sail this ship, that has been referred to so often during the various addresses of the Prime Minister, into a sea uncharted and unknown; that he would within a few hours jettison the whole Tory policy in an attempt to save the ship; that he would nail to the masthead not the flag of progress but the flag of Tory despair? At eleven o'clock the house adjourned without question put, pursuant to standing order. Tuesday, February 26, 1935


February 25, 1935