April 3, 1936

CON

William Allen Walsh

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WALSH:

I shall be here when other members are gone and forgotten. No one need worry about my presence in this chamber, for as long as I want to be here I shall be here.

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

Thomas Reid

Liberal

Mr. REID:

Give him a trumpet.

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CON

William Allen Walsh

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WALSH:

When I first entered this house, Mr. Speaker, there was naturally in

1790 COMMONS

Employment Commission-Mr. Walsh

the early part of the session much gloating over the victory that had been won in October, 1935. The reason for that victory was given during the early part of the session as being the immense popularity of the Prime Minister. The reason now given for the victory is the immense popularity of the employment commission that was promised to the electorate throughout this dominion. I assume we can take our choice as to why the election went as it did. I have it figured out in my own mind that no matter what government had been in power in the last five years they were due for a defeat, and a really good defeat. No government, be it Liberal or Conservative, could have gone through what this country had to go through for the five years from 1930 to 1935 and expect to receive approval from the electorate of the Dominion of Canada, and I suggest to this Liberal government, strongly entrenched as they are in power at the present time, that if they have to go through a similar period of depression to that which the Conservative government went through in the last five years they are going to meet the same Waterloo in 1939 or 1940.

We have heard in this house much reference to the causes of the depression and to the need for a measure of this kind. This measure is the suggestion of the Minister of Labour after looking at the situation as it now exists. I want to say in all fairness to him that I have read the speech he delivered on the second reading of this bill, and I do not think any hon. member could take exception to the remarks he made on that occasion. I think he is seriously making an effort to establish something that will help him solve this problem of unemployment. The only difference between the Minister of Labour and myself is that I have more confidence in him and his department, and in his ability to organize and reorganize his department, than he has himself. He wants to turn over the work of the Department of Labour in this particular field to a commission. As I look over the record of the Department of Labour prior to 1930 I hardly think it was an overworked department. I feel that the present Minister of Labour would be quite competent to handle this situation if he had not been tied by an election promise that had been made and that must be carried out. I feel that he could engage sufficiently competent assistants to render the establishment of this commission unnecessary, and in that way curb the expenditures that are bound to arise through a measure of this nature.

(Mr. Walsh.]

One can picture the appointments to this commission. Of course, the appointments are to be non-political. No politicians or nearpoliticians need apply. The commissioners are to be gathered together here in Ottawa; then they are going to proceed to collect statistics and compile and publish all that information, and then they are going to proceed to act upon it. Now, why could not that be done by officials in the Department of Labour? Why could there not be a committee formed in the department to do that self-same work, instead of adding to the burdens of the department by giving it another body with which to deal? The only reason I can see for the appointment of a commission of this kind is that it may act as a buffer state between the government and those who are seeking aid and relief in connection with unemployment m this dominion. That is the only reason I can see, and I do not like political manoeuvres and appointments of that sort. I think any government in power should take full, absolute and complete responsibility for their actions, and not place themselves in a position to say: We have nothing to do with the matter; here is the commission; you must go to them, and if they do not do as you would like them to dio, we are very sorry but we cannot assist you in any way; blame the commission; we have nothing to do with the matter; we did all we could but the commission would not act as we would like them to do.

I do not think the Minister of Labour when he was teaching-and by the way the Prime Minister did make me feel at home in the house to-night when he suggested that members should go back to their rooms and do a little studying before coming here to speak; he did make me feel that I was back in the lecture theatre and in the classroom once more-I do not think the Minister of Labour when he was propounding his economic theories and studying this question from the point of view of a professor of economics at Queen's university found the same solution for the problem as he is finding to-day as Minister of Labour. I think the solution he found as professor of economics at Queen's would be a better one to put into effect than the one that he is urging this house to adopt at the present time.

During the course of his remarks the Prime Minister suggested that the government in power during the past five years had done little or nothing; that they had done a tremendous amount of manoeuvring but actually had accomplished nothing; that they did

Employment Commission-Mr. Walsh

not even recognize the full significance of the condition as it existed. I do not think he was really sincere when he made that statement. I do not think any government would stay in power five years and treat * this question just as a paltry addition to the worries of government. There is no man in Canada, be he Liberal or Conservative; there is no member of this house who does not recognize the proportions of the problem with which we have to deal. When the Prime Minister suggests that the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett) and his supporters did not realize the stupendous task that was ahead of them, I feel he is making a statement not borne out by the facts. The previous government did recognize the problem and they made a serious effort to combat it. That effort was not in line with what is suggested now, but it should not be suggested that they were un-Canadian enough to neglect the problem of unemployment and leave it to shift and drift to a possible conclusion by the coming in of better times. They did their work and did it well, and many members of that government broke down their health in their efforts to deal with the unemployment situation. They made mistakes, but who does not make mistakes? The only person who does not make a mistake is the one who sits back and does nothing. They made a lot of mistakes, but I do not mind seeing a man making mistakes if in the end he gets somewhere and accomplishes something. It is only by making mistakes that we get anywhere or accomplish anything in this world.

We cannot analyze the cause of this depression. It is no worse in Canada than it is anywhere else, and as far as I can see we are in a better position than that of most countries of the world. Our position is not as good at the present time as that of Great Britain, but it is better than that of most other countries. In my estimation something was done during the past five years. If it did not accomplish a great deal, it at least put us into the position in which we find ourselves to-day. That condition was not aggravated as it would have been had nothing been done. I do not want to suggest, as did the Prime Minister that the government of 1930-35 were responsible in any way for the depression. I do not want to suggest that the Liberal government from 1929-30 were responsible for the depression, although they did not recognize that it existed during those years. They were in no way to blame for it. To my mind the real cause of the depression is industry. I have tried to analyze this picture and as far as I can see, industry itself is to blame. We

enjoyed a tremendous period of expansion from 1921 to 1928 and the dividend and profit seekers are primarily responsible for the condition in which we find ourselves to-day. They took the soul out of business. There was a time when I could apprentice my boy to the corner grocery, when I could have him learn a trade and then start him up in a profitable business in some corner of a new suburb; at one time there were prospects for our .boys, but there are none to-day.

We must readjust our thinking to the conditions as we find them to-day. Great industries have taken the soul out of business. They have forgotten the human element. Just as we forget the human element in business, so did we plunge down and down into the depths of the depression until we found ourselves where we are to-day. If these profits which these people were making had been properly applied during the heyday of our commercial existence, we would not be talking about measures such as the one we have before us to-night. It is because of the exploitation of the commercial and industrial life of our country by many of the so-called financiers that we find ourselves in our present condition. They have taken the soul out of business. They have forgotten that which our forefathers knew when they established1 themselves in business fifty, sixty or a hundred* years ago; they have forgotten the import of that question which we hear so frequently in Sabbath sermons, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Too many business men have eliminated that thought from their code of ethics and the man who works in industry is now the forgotten quantity. The result is that he is bearing the load of the depression, not the business leaders and the financiers. As a result of the conditions that both governments have allowed to grow up around us the very life-blood has been sapped from the economic and industrial life of our communities.

As I said when I commenced my speech, I am not opposing this measure although I do' not agree with certain features in it. It will go through this house, but I assure the Minister of Labour that after it does go through, everything done by this commission will have my heartiest support. After this discussion is through I believe that all hon. members should get behind the Minister of Labour and give him their moral support. In standing by him we are standing by our country and we can help ourselves out of this depression by such an attitude. I want to emphasize again that this problem of unemployment should be kept out of the realm of politics. Once it gets into politics we are sunk. I want

Employment Commission

to leave that thought with the Minister of Labour. I am with him one hundred per cent, but I would rather he would strike out the clause appointing a commission and assume full responsibility himself. He could reorganize his department and do this work more effectively and more efficiently than any commission.

Motion agreed to and the house went into committee on the bill, Mr. Ward in the chair.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.

On section 3-Commission constituted.

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:

I move that between the words "consisting of" and the word "seven" in line 5 there be inserted the words "not more than" so that the section will read:

There shall be a commission to be called the national employment commission, consisting of not more than seven members ...

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

That answers the question I was about to ask the minister, as to why the number was seven.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
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CON

Grote Stirling

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STIRLING:

What will guide the government in the choice of the commissioners? Will any notice be taken of geography or of occupation, or in what way will they choose the commissioners?

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

It is the desire of the government in selecting the personnel of the commission to have in mind as a primary consideration the qualifications of the men who will serve on the commission to deal with particular aspects of the problem of unemployment and relief. It will, however, be desirable to keep in mind also the regional aspect of the problem. It has been proved by experience that there are certain phases of the problem which attach themselves to certain sections of the country, and we have had in view that this commission shall be representative in the widest sense of the word both geographically and, if I may use the term, occupationally.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
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CON

Grote Stirling

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STIRLING:

Does the minister anticipate that they will travel or will they spend most of their time in Ottawa and examine the situation at long distance?

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

I should think that the commission would carry out its investigations partly upon the basis of movements through the country as occasion might require, but very largely upon the basis of information which they would be able to obtain and assemble here in Ottawa, as it is provided in the legislation itself that the head office shall be in this city.

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

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

Will the minister tell us something about the particular qualifications of the commissioners? Will they all have the same qualifications or will their qualifications vary according to experience, background and so on? Will they be able to discuss matters with industry proposed as an inducement to industry to give more employment?

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

As my hon. friend is aware, the personnel of the commission has not yet been announced, although I can safely say-

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

James Houston Spence

Liberal

Mr. SPENCE:

You have lots of applications.

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

There has been no lack of applications and in many cases they have come from men who have offered to serve voluntarily in this time of grave emergency. So far as qualifications are concerned, I have already made some reference to that in answering another question. Obviously it will be desirable to secure as members of the commission some men who are intimately identified with the industrial life of the country. We have that very much in view. It will also be desirable to secure as members of the commission those who have had a close relationship with the relief problem. I do not know that it is possible to go beyond that at this time. I can assure my hon. friend that these are the two considerations which shall guide us in selecting the personnel of the commission and these considerations obviously have a relation to the two problems that will confront the commission, the great problem of reemployment, which involves the closest kind of continuing cooperation with industry and commerce, and the problem of relief which is of a somewhat different order and which has never existed before in its present dimensions in this country.

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

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART:

Inasmuch as it is sought to secure the cooperation of the provinces, and there being nine of them in the dominion, I think it is essential that in work of this kind the provinces should be consulted. This has been the policy in the past, and what was done in the way of relief in the past was done very largely upon the initiation and with the recommendation and approval of the provinces. Reference has been made to a change of policy from works to direct contribution. That was done after a meeting of the premiers of the different provinces was held and upon their recommendation. Now, it is proposed to appoint a commission which seeks to secure the cooperation, approval and good will of the provinces. Will the provinces be consulted? Will they have any-

Employment Commission

thing to say in connection with the appointment of these commissioners, or will the municipalities or any organization other than simply the governor in council be consulted?

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

The provinces, by their unanimous approval of the proposal to establish a national employment commission, as indicated at the dominion-provincial conference on December 6, have made it clear that they regard the establishment of this commission as a move in the right direction. They did not ask then and have not asked prior to this time to have any voice in the selection of the personnel of the commission, and I am quite sure that my hon. friend will appreciate the difficulty of going beyond the provinces, as he has suggested, to the municipalities and consulting the municipalities as to the selection of the personnel. Clearly this is a matter which will have to be determined by the governor in council. This national employment commission is being set up not by legislation of the provinces but by legislation of the dominion parliament. It is designed to secure and, I trust, will secure, by virtue not of its personnel but of its functions, the cooperation of the provinces and the municipalities.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
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CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART:

We have been told that at the recent conference there was the utmost harmony between the dominion and the provinces with regard to what was agreed upon. Very shortly after the conference broke up there came from different sources indications that everything was not quite so harmonious, and some of the suggestions that were said to have been adopted unanimously are now being repudiated. I do not suggest that all the municipalities could be consulted, but I am sure that some of the municipalities, the larger cities that have had to deal with this problem and have been close to it through all these years, could give the minister some very helpful information and possibly provide one or two appointees to the commission who would be found very useful.

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

I can assure my hon. friend that we shall take an extremely liberal view-

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

That is what we thought.

Topic:   EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION
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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

-in considering this question.

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

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

What is meant by fees in subsection 3 of section 3?

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