April 3, 1936

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I was going to come to that at the end of the very few remarks I desire to make, but I will deal with it now. Could we have anything that better demonstrates the futility of that recommendation than we have had in the last few days?

Employment Commission-Mr. Bennett

When the stress and strain of a condition are imposed upon a province it must do its best for itself regardless of other considerations. Conditions in Alberta make that abundantly clear; the letter read by the Minister of Finance (Mr. Dunning) yesterday from British Columbia establishes it beyond question. That recommendation reminds me of a statement made by the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre (Mr. Maybank) as to why there was a change in dealing with the problem of relief. Personally I have always been opposed to the dole as every hon. member knows, and as my personal friends know. But when the provinces were called into session, as they were every year before a relief act was passed, they unanimously determined that they must have direct relief, and abandoned the principles upon which they had proceeded. For during the years that are past we clung to the idea that this was a federal union and that, it being a federal union, we could not by any single act of ours destroy the authority and force of the word "exclusively" as applied to the power of legislative jurisdiction conferred upon the provinces. When the provinces, acting within their jurisdiction, took certain action, we could supplement that action only by grants in aid, and they determined unanimously, sitting together in conference with the federal government, that they desired a change, an entire alteration of the scheme; they desired that grants for direct relief should be given to them in order that they might give direct relief. That is what I was going to say a few minutes later with respect to the futility of relying upon any such recommendation as that which may be secured for the moment from a provincial conference. These gentlemen that came here were mostly premiers, except in one case. Every year before a relief act was placed upon the statute books of Canada there was a conference, and they determined, or at least they in conference with the federal government determined, what the legislation should be.

Now, I do point out that the effect of this commission is to add to the coach another wheel that cannot possibly in the end accomplish any purpose, for it cannot relieve the government of ultimate responsibility, nor can it confer upon the commission any power to deal with the provincial situation as it occurs and presents itself from time to time to the provincial authorities.

Then, the other subdivision is to recommend to the minister effective means of mobilizing the agencies of relief for the purpose of assisting the governments. Well, at the very start of this difficulty in Canada the

late Senator Robertson went from the Atlantic to the Pacific and saw the governments, saw the great railway corporations, saw the heads of industrial concerns, and the answer was a simple one: We cannot conduct our

operations and lose money because we have taxes to pay to the municipalities and if we do not pay them the municipalities are unable to function. I know of many organizations in this country which during the last four years have continued to operate their plants without making any money whatever for their shareholders, because the} owed an obligation to those who were employed by them and, more, to the municipalities in which they existed in order that these might secure taxes with which to maintain in part the relief measures which they carried on.

The next point is the question of investigation. I am not going to do more than point out that these investigations are capable of being carried on without the setting up of the costly machinery of a commission. The investigation is followed by a report, and the report need or need not be adopted by the government. The result, therefore, is that so far as we are concerned we have the machinery of a commission set up for the purpose of making investigations and reports which are not binding upon anyone, but which merely supply the government with information that might, under existing legislation, be obtained by the government itself at any time by setting in motion the present machinery. That is the clear position with respect to that.

I am not going to do more than point out one more matter, and that is this. The commission does not control the expenditures, but it is said to control the supervision of the expenditures. How, under section 7, this commission is to supervise the expenditure of funds for purposes of relief and perform such administrative duties with respect to relief and employment as may be assigned to it by the governor in council, I cannot quite understand. That means that we have legislation by governor in council. It is that point to which I now direct attention. When I consider what transpired in this house during the last five years; when I direct the attention of members to Hansard to see the speeches made, for instance, by the then member for Kenora-Rainy River, Mr. Heenan, or the speeches made by the members for northern Ontario, as well as other parts of Canada, I invite them to ask themselves, having read those speeches, whether the government has any regard for consistency when it provides in this bill that no administrative powers

1776 COMMONS

Employment Commission-Mr. Bennett

shall be vested in this commission unless and until an order in council is passed to enable this to be done. That means legislation by order in council, which means that, regardless of the grant of power having been made by parliament, the governor in council, the executive, can determine by regulation and by order the extent of the powers to be exercised administratively by the commission thus set up.

I am not objecting to that provision in the sense that some hon. members may assume, because I have said time and again that in a period of depression the government necessarily must ask parliament to clothe it with power to meet emergencies, and so long as oarliament grants the power there is a valid jxercise of it if it is exercised within the limits of the powers so granted. But in section 7 we have the negation of all the speeches of the last four years. I ask new members of this house to read Hansard and see the attacks that were made unceasingly and unsparingly as to the usurpation of the powers of parliament, the talcing from parliament of its great functions and vesting them in a few men, or in one man, as members of the then opposition used to say. Now, what happens is that the commission is given power to "supervise" expenditure. No one knows just what that means, because it is powerless to control provincial governments with respect to matters except in so far as that control may be imposed as a condition, and that condition, we know, is one to which the provinces will not likely yield. Administrative duties are to be imposed upon this commission by the action of the governor in council. There is no limitation upon those broad words "administrative duties," and they are to be assigned by the governor in council, not by this parliament. How often have I heard my right hon. friend from this place thunder against the usurpation by the governor in council of the powers of parliament! Now, there is to be assigned to this commission such administrative duties-with all that word "administrative" means; with all that is involved in those great words "administrative duties"- as, not this parliament at all times, but as the governor in council may assign. That is the second point to which I desire to direct attention.

The third point is that this contemplates the setting up of a national advisory committee. Do I need to remind this house that the wheat act contained a provision for an advisory committee, and that it was swept out when this government came into office? They say that there was no obligation to appoint an advisory committee because the word was "may", which is merely permissive. Under this bill the governor in council may appoint

an advisory committee. Then all this talk about the advisory committee is in exactly the same position as that regarding the advisory committee under the wheat act; it depends entirely upon the attitude of mind that the government may adopt towards it at a particular moment. And this committee will extend its operations so that it is not the commission that sets up a department with respect to women or a department with respect to youth, but it is this advisory committee that there is no obligation on the part of this government to set up. So far as we may predict the future from the actions of the past we can only say that, having regard to what happened w'ith relation to the wheat board, this advisory committee will not be set up, on the ground that an advisory board is a fifth wheel to the coach, and does not help those who are charged with the responsibility as being members of the commission itself. That is the position to which I desire to direct attention.

The measure having received the endorsement of the people and being part of the mandate given to the government, it follows that I do not propose or suggest that any member of this house has a right to interpose his will against this legislation being placed on the statute books. But when it is being placed on the statute books it is my duty to point out that in so far as the figures and statistics are concerned, the anticipation of them, by the presentation of them to the house now rather than in a report at the end of the year, is highly commendable; and the form in which they were presented by the minister commands, I think, the commendation and admiration of every hon. member of this house. They were given to us lucidly and precisely, and there was no question about understanding exactly the implications of the figures themselves.

I do not think this is the time or the place to discuss what has been so often discussed in this chamber during the last four or five years. I could reverse the conditions for an hour or two, recalling that in the past the government of the day and I used to be pointed at by hon. members on the opposition benches and attacked for the sad neglect, the utter callousness to the condition of the country. the utter disregard of the sufferings of the people, of which we were supposed to be guilty. All this we will pass by. We will not yield to any one, even to the present administration, in our regard for the condition of the people. But I think it is my duty to point out that in so far as this commission is concerned it divides itself into the branches I have indicated, and no reasons have been given except those that should not prevail in parlia-

Employment Commission-Mr. Mackenzie King

ment, because there is a rule that forbids the introduction in these debates of opinions of those outside parliament. The reasons for this rule are obvious to every student of our institutions. You cannot introduce another member to the two hundred and forty-five who are now here, and when you express in these debates the opinion of this person or that person, stating that they have said that this is a good thing or that is a bad thing, this is entirely beside the question and contrary to the principles which in time past have governed and, I think, should continue to govern the discussion of public questions in this house.

When one deals with the broad question of what is the power of recommendation on the one hand and the power of investigation on the other, I think it is abundantly established that what we are doing is once more entrusting powers to the governor in council, and in this instance largely to the minister himself, to determine what action shall be taken in connection with the great problem with which the minister has to deal. The problem is his and that of the government. They sought authority to deal with it. They received a mandate from the people to deal with the problem and solve it. In their hands I leave it, because I believe the mandate of the people must be respected.

At six o'clock the house took recess.

After Recess

The house resumed at eight o'clock.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OP UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF AND PROVISION FOR NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
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PRIVATE BILLS

SECOND HEADINGS


Bill No. 29, for the relief of Sonya Shenk-man, otherwise known as Sadie Shenkman.- Mr. Factor. Bill No. 30, for the relief of Louisa Mark-land Molson Blaiklock.-Mr. White. Bill No. 31, for the relief of Rita Constance Beatrice Gurd Rylcert.-Mr. Lennard. Bill No. 32, for the relief of Helen Elizabeth Ham Lilley-Mr. Davidson. Bill No. 33, for the relief of Mary Kaydouh Massabky. Mr. Hyndman. Bill No. 34, for the relief of Dora Louise Gustiana York.-Mr. White. Bill No. 35, for the relief of Violet Charlotte Dyke Duiven. Mr. Jacobs. Bill No. 36, for the relief of Irene Louise Penny McKee.-Mr. White. Bill No. 37, for the relief of Esther Shapiro. -Mr. Lennard. Bill No. 38, for the relief of Thomas John Howard Fox.-Mr. Lennard.


EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION

ADMINISTRATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF AND PROVISION FOB NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE


The house resumed consideration of the motion of Hon. Mr. Rogers for the second reading of Bill No. 14, respecting the establishment of a national employment commission.


LIB

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

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I must thank the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett) for having made clear to hon. members that in bringing forward this measure, the government is fulfilling an undertaking given to the country, and that it has a mandate for so doing. I have felt throughout the discussion that, if that could have been said at the beginning by my right hon. friend, possibly many hon. members would not have gone so far afield in criticizing the present measure. Whatever views we may entertain in this house with respect to the advantages of setting up a national commission to deal with the great question of employment and relief, there can be no doubt that the country, as a whole, has unmistakably expressed its view in favour of having that step taken. And it has done so after having had five years to observe the method of dealing with the problem which my right hon. friend, by his remarks this afternoon, apparently suggests should be continued. My right hon. friend has said, and so have a great many others of his party, as well as some of the members of other groups in the house, that there is no reason why the minister himself, with the staff which he has, should not be able to cope with the great problem of unemployment.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF AND PROVISION FOB NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

And the staff he could employ.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF AND PROVISION FOB NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

And the staff

he could employ, yes. My right hon. friend had a perfectly free hand to employ a staff of any size during the five years that he was in office. During those five years the problem of unemployment not only maintained over the years the position which it occupied, when he came into office, and which according to my right hon. friend's statement was overwhelming at that time, but it increased continuously. Every year he continued the administration of government it became more and more overwhelming, until at the present time we have in Canada a problem with respect to unemployment and relief which is unparalleled. It has been demonstrated over a period of five years that a department of the government of itself is wholly incapable of dealing with this great problem. I submit the

1778 COMMONS

Employment Commission-Mr. Mackenzie King

present administration would, to say the least, be derelict in its duty if it endeavoured simply to continue that which hon. gentlemen opposite found to be wholly inadequate.

Not only that; we of the Liberal party believed from the outset that the former government was making a very grave mistake in attempting to deal with this great problem as though it were just an ordinary question tvhich could be dealt with by a single department of government, as questions are dealt with in normal times. We pointed out at the very beginning of the last parliament that my right hon. friend would probably find, where he had to deal with different provinces and municipalities, on a question as baffling and perplexing as that of unemployment, that he would need the advice and assistance of some body which would be as representative as possible of all sections of the country, of all the interests in the country, and of all parties immediately affected. We stressed that at each succeeding session. But in part I imagine, because the suggestion came from the other side of the house, my right hon. friend did not think it should be accepted. He continued to go on seeking to deal with this problem through the medium of a single department. The people of Canada were naturally concerned at the manner in which their affairs were being managed. They were immediately interested in observing how public money was being spent. Each year they saw the expenditures on relief account mount ever higher. I venture to say that at the time of the general election, no single question contributed more effectively to the electorate reaching the emphatic decision it did than the manner in which the problem of unemployment had been handled in the preceding five years.

When the Liberal opposition put forward the view that a commission was necessary, we did so, amongst other reasons, because we had before us examples from the past, which we believed would appeal to the government and to the entire country. During the period of the war Canada found it necessary to deal with a question of relief. The country was faced with the problem of relief for the wives and dependents of those who were members of the forces overseas. Did the government of Sir Robert Borden at that time attempt to deal with the problem through a single department of government? Did the government say: Let the Department of Labour, and the minister at its head look after the dependents of those who are fighting overseas? Or did the government assign this duty to the Department of National Defence?

The government of the day did not adopt any such course. The government felt that conditions were exceptional and had to be met in an exceptional way. So there was established by act of parliament the Canadian Patriotic Fund, an organization incorporated under statute, the object of which was to deal with the administration of funds made available for the purpose of affording relief to the dependents of those who were on active service with the forces overseas.

The total amount of money expended by that corporation in the time it was in existence was about 850,000,000. The money was expended under the direction of the executive committee. I happened to be a member of the executive of the Canadian Patriotic Fund throughout the period of the war. I believe I attended practically every meeting of the executive in that period, and I saw a good deal of the way in which that great transaction was administered. I saw the advantages which came from having a committee on which there were men who could speak with knowledge, authority and experience respecting the conditions in all parts of the country. I saw, further, the great advantage of pooling knowledge and information in an effort to work out schemes which, on the one hand, most effectively would serve to provide relief, and, on the other, would perform another all-important duty of the state, namely that of being careful and economical in dealing with great sums of money whether obtained from public or private sources and the expenditure of which is in the nature of a trust.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF AND PROVISION FOB NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

The government had

nothing to do with it at all.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF AND PROVISION FOB NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

The government had everything to do with it. It introduced the bill incorporating the national patriotic fund; it had everything to do with determining the personnel of the executive and, as I have just indicated was responsible for its performing certain functions.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF AND PROVISION FOB NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Except that the Minister of Finance was honorary treasurer.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF AND PROVISION FOB NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Permalink
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

My right hon. friend is now backing me up. He says that the Minister of Finance was honorary treasurer.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF AND PROVISION FOB NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Permalink
CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

My right hon. friend said that the government had everything to do with it.

Employment Commission-Mr. Mackenzie King

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF AND PROVISION FOB NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Permalink
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I might also

tell my right hon. friend that the auditor general of Canada was its auditor.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF AND PROVISION FOB NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Yes, honorary auditor.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF AND PROVISION FOB NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Which was

something more than we had during the time my right hon. friend was spending hundreds of millions with respect to relief in Canada during the last five years.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF AND PROVISION FOB NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Mr. Speaker, I have no desire to interrupt, but the auditor general was auditor of every dollar of expenditure.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF AND PROVISION FOB NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Permalink
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

We have had that discussed before. Perhaps hon. members, who are interested, will look it up.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
Subtopic:   ADMINISTRATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF AND PROVISION FOB NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
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April 3, 1936