February 3, 1938

GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH

CONTINUATION OP DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY


The house resumed consideration of the motion of Mr. J. N. Francoeur for an address to His Excellency the Governor General in reply to his speech at the opening of the session, and the proposed amendment thereto of Mr. Bennett.


CON

Thomas Alfred Thompson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. T. A. THOMPSON (Lanark):

When the house rose for the dinner recess, Mr. Speaker, I was discussing the imperial trade agreements. I wish to repeat that in my opinion they were the greatest accomplishment of the Canadian people in the last fifty years. They were something we were all proud to get. They have benefited all classes of our people, and they are something that the Canadian people as a whole wish to guard zealously.

If at this session something is not done to increase the prosperity of the masses of our people we may have some trouble in Canada which we do not anticipate. We look at Italy, at Germany and at Russia; we say these things cannot happen in this country, but when we realize the dissatisfaction that exists to-day from the Atlantic to the Pacific, who can tell what will be the outcome.

There is another question to which I should like to direct the attention of the house. I refer to those underpaid men who deliver the mail in our rural sections. Last year this question was brought to the attention of the house but nothing was done. We have no more faithful servants in the Dominion of Canada than the men who daily, rain or shine, deliver the mail at the farmers' gates, but they are the most underpaid class in this country. All they ask is fair treatment. I should like to suggest this to the government, that they put the rural mail carriers on the same basis as the men who deliver mail in the cities. A salary is set for those men; positions are advertised, at SI,200 a year, or whatever it may be. The government say: "Here is a position worth so much money," and they select from the applicants the man whom they consider best qualified for the position. In the country they say; "You fellows bid against one another and we will give the job to the man who bids lowest." I think that is an injustice. These men in hard times have been bidding rural routes down for less than half the proper amount. Why not establish a mileage percentage? A route is surely worth so much per mile. Advertise for the drivers and select from the applicants the man best qualified, not the man who puts in the lowest estimate on the value of his own services.

I have very little time left in which to speak. In the few minutes left to me, however, may I say that we are living in a country composed of men of different races, different creeds, and different nationalities, and the greatest task lying before the statesmen of Canada to-day is to weld these peoples together into one harmonious whole in building up a great Canadian nation. We all have something to learn.

The Address-Mr. Thompson

Nothing annoys me more than to hear one class of our people speaking against another class. We must learn that the man at our right hand or at our left hand, whether he worships at the same altar as we worship at, whether this is the land of his birth or the land of his adoption, or whether he speaks the same language as we speak, is after all a brother Canadian and one who is building on the same foundations as we are, the foundations laid by the fathers of confederation, a structure which we hope may be the pride of the whole British Empire.

Let us throw aside these petty differences and let us judge our political questions on their face value and not in the manner they are too often judged. I am sorry to say that in my opinion the present government does not possess the courage to grapple with the momentous questions which present themselves to-day. Faced with responsibility, they choose to shirk it. They say, "Oh, we will appoint a royal commission," and they keep on saying this until, in order to prevent collisions, traffic officers have to be called in to regulate the commissions on the road. They say, "We will refer it to the courts," or "Let parliament settle it," or "Let George do it"- anything to evade responsibility. If in this session legislation is not brought down to improve conditions in which our people find themselves I would call upon the ministry to resign. I would say: Give the people of Canada a chance to elect a government which will have the courage and fortitude to do its duty by the people.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Hon. J. G. GARDINER (Minister of Agriculture) :

Mr. Speaker, before proceeding with what I have to say on the address in reply I should like to join with other hon. members who have spoken, and with those who have not spoken, in offering a word of welcome to the mover and seconder, who are new members in the house. I think there could be no time more fitting than the present for two men with experience in the two older provinces of the dominion to come to the house. We are considering changes in our constitution which have to do with the relationship existing between the dominion parliament and the legislatures of the provinces, and I am sure the two men coming to the house at the present time, one with experience in the old province of Quebec, and another with experience in the legislature of the old province of Ontario, will add greatly to the strength of the house in dealing with questions of this kind. The manner in which each of them acquitted

himself in moving and seconding the address must add to the welcome which hon. members will extend to them.

In listening to the address of the right hon. the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett), I was of course interested in the remarks he had to make relating to the department I have the honour to administer, and more particularly was I interested in the pleasure he seemed to get out of referring to the activities having to do with the relations between myself and the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers) and myself and the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Euler) during the past summer.

With reference to the Minister of Labour I wish to say only this, that we are in entire agreement with regard to all matters having to do with labour, even with regard to the Committee for Industrial Organization. During the late fall I had occasion to discuss in the province of Ontario the activities of the former federal government, which held office prior to 1935, and the activities of the present government of Ontario in dealing with labour matters. I had occasion to call attention to the fact that on every one of three occasions on which the former federal government came into Saskatchewan to deal with labour questions the result was that certain persons were taken to the graveyard, others to the hospital and still others to gaol. But whatever else may be said of the present government of Ontario, they have settled their labour troubles without cracking any heads, without sending anyone to the penitentiary, and certainly without sending anyone to the graveyard.

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CON

James Earl Lawson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LAWSON:

A tribute to the people of Ontario.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

The activities of the government in power prior to 1935 extended not only to Saskatchewan but to other provinces, and with similar results. In making those comparisons it was not necessary for me to refer at all to the Committee for Industrial Organization. In settling labour troubles in Canada we have been able to deal with them in the manner in which the Minister of Labour has stated is the proper way to deal with them, and on all those points I agree with the Minister of Labour in the federal government.

One other matter which is of great importance has to do with the distribution of feed and fodder in the drought areas of western Canada. I should like to read to the house, in order to recall the statements made, what

The Address-Mr. Gardiner

was said by the leader of the opposition in connection with this matter. The right hon. gentleman said:

I feel quite sure, however, that if we could set up the machinery suggested by that report we might be able to provide, shall we say, some provincial premier with larger powers, as were proposed with respect to a high commissioner.

However, I have only this to say with respect to the administration of the act: It is still a politically administered act. At the proper time and place I have an enormous number of communications I should like to bring to this chamber, provided the reading of them would not worry the house. But with respect to the relief afforded to those who have been so unfortunate as to live within the areas in question, it is quite clear that this government has divorced itself from some of its responsibility, and has left it with the provincial administration.

Then the right hon. gentleman proceeded to give what he looked upon as a statement of what might occur in the drought areas of western Canada. I wish to state for his benefit that I think, after I have reviewed the method of administration which has been set up, he will realize no such situation could have developed in the drought area and have been dealt with in the manner in which in his address he stated certain cases had been dealt with.

Before doing that, I should like to call the attention of the house to the fact that the leader of the opposition states that he has in his possession numerous communications, from western Canada I assume, containing complaints based upon cases similar to that which he submitted to the house. I have in my office several files of communications containing complaints and expressing appreciation of what has been done in the drought area. I have had a search of the files made, but I mould find no complaint similar to the one brought to the attention of the house the other day by the leader of the opposition.

That being the case, what I want to point out is this: If after the expenditure of

hundreds of thousands of dollars-it will extend into millions-in western Canada, it is being insinuated that money is being wasted through the distribution of feed and fodder, then the leader of the opposition is the only one connected with the affairs of the house who has had sufficient information to stop that expenditure of money. Instead of placing his information before the department which I happen to administer, for political reasons he has been talking about the matter up and down the length and breadth of Canada. Finally he has brought it into the house, not in the form of a charge or by reading correspondence, but by saying that he has numerous

letters which he will present some place, somewhere, some time, after the money has been spent and any loss incurred. Any hon. member, whether sitting in opposition or otherwise, who receives that kind of communication should place it immediately in the hands of the responsible minister in order that an unnecessary expenditure of money may be stopped. The right hon. gentleman goes on to say:

His efforts may induce the authority to say that the ten may be increased to fifteen.

There are no such figures in connection with any of the regulations that have gone out from this department. He continues:

This government is not doing it, but it is being done by the provincial government. However, the effects are reflected upon us because we are providing the money with which these matters may be taken care of. That is going on, and it is only natural that it should.

With all due respect to the leader of the opposition, I say that if there are cases where it is going on they have not been brought to our attention. I refer to the type of case of which he has been speaking. If it is going on, it should not be going on. If it is going on, I would say that it is not going on with more than five per cent of the people of western Canada who have been given assistance by this government. There is no reason for a member of the house who holds the high position which the leader of the opposition does, to say at this stage, when we are in the middle of the season, "it is only natural that it should." It is not natural that it should. The right hon. gentleman continues:

These conditions are inevitable if the conduct of business is left to purely political sources.

And again:

I repeat that when the money of the taxpayers is being spent in this way it certainly should be done by some independent commission, if possible, so as to prevent not only the opportunity but the temptation for political administration.

I intend to deal with those statements by outlining to the house what has happened during the past few months by way of criticism outside the house, and also by outlining the method of administration set up and what has been accomplished under that method. About October 6 last the leader of the opposition made a statement in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, which was reported by the Canadian Press, in which he levied charges against me as Minister of Agriculture in connection with the administration of relief in western Canada. The right hon. gentleman was reported as having said that I was building up an enormous political machine through the administration of relief.

The Address-Mr. Gardiner

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Hear, hear.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

And my right hon. friend says, "Hear, hear." He then proceeded from Charlottetown to Brandon, Manitoba, where he made almost the identical statement. He then proceeded to Regina. I then thought it about time that I paid a little attention to this matter, seeing that he was in my home province. I sent a statement to the press pointing out that the administration of relief was being conducted through the municipalities in Saskatchewan. Speaking to an audience in Regina the right hon. gentleman came back with the reply, "Yes, it is turned over to the municipalities, but the municipalities are only a cog in the Liberal political machine."

In Saskatchewan there are some 301 municipalities with councils of six; there are somewhere in the neighbourhood of seventy-eight or seventy-nine towns with councils of five; there are some 400 villages and hamlets with councils of three, and there are some eight cities with the usual city council. He was saying that the members of these councils throughout the province were simply cogs in the political machine of the Liberal party in Saskatchewan. There is no one in that province or outside it who believes that. I am certain that my friends of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, some of whom come from Saskatchewan or of the Social Credit group, two of whom come from that province, will not admit that the councils in the municipalities which they represent are composed of men who are cogs in any political machine, Liberal, Conservative or otherwise. If I had the time to-night I could recite the conditions existing in many of these councils and convince even the leader of the opposition that his statement was not correct.

What I wanted to point out was this: When the leader of the opposition spoke in Charlottetown and Brandon he placed the blame on my doorstep; when he spoke in the city of Regina he placed the blame on the doorstep of the councils who he said were only a part of the Liberal political machine in that province; when he spoke in Vancouver he repeated the statement. But when he comes into the house, after having gone all the way across Canada, he does not say the Minister of Agriculture is to blame; he does not say the councils in Saskatchewan are to blame; he says the provincial government is to blame. But he does not say it is the provincial government of Saskatchewan or the provincial government of Alberta that is t-o blame; he does not say that he checked the cases in the

federal or provincial departments; he simply makes the blanket statement that something has happened somewhere which is not exactly right. When he reaches the point where he can be faced by the administrators of the department he then lays the blame at the door of a provincial department that is miles away.

In order to indicate whether or not there has been a political set-up in connection with the organization I should like to call the attention of the house to what has happened in connection with the administration of relief in the drought area. In 1936 we determined very early in the season-not as early as this year-that some assistance would have to foe given in the areas which had been dried out in the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta over a period of some five or six years. We took the number which had to have assistance on September 1 and adopted those people immediately as the particular care of the federal government. We said to the provincial governments that we were prepared to enter into an agreement to deal with those particular municipalities and provide them with feed and fodder and direct relief. I am dealing only with feed and fodder at the moment because it is in connection with this that the attack is made. As time went along and other municipalities found it absolutely essential that they receive assistance, they would submit their requirements to the provincial government, the provincial government would consider them and if they passed upon them favourably they would turn the matter over to the federal government. We examined into conditions existing in the municipality and determined finally whether it should foe admitted or not. We started off with, I think, somewhere about 105 municipalities in Saskatchewan, about nine in Manitoba and about sixty or seventy in Alberta. Then we added to them from time to time until we came to the middle of the month of February, and by the end of that period we had a considerably larger number of municipalities admitted.

What I want to point out to the house is that we found this weakness in that method, that many of the municipalities had to wait for days and weeks, and on occasion even a month, in order to get a final decision from Ottawa after all the inspections had been made; so this year we determined upon a different line of action in order to take care of that area. The Minister of Labour and I, together with a representative of the Saskatchewan government-and when we were in Alberta we got into touch with those who were interested in the matter there-drove over

The Address-Mr. Gardiner

that whole area. We skirted the boundaries of it all, passing first along the United States boundary; then we went up to Medicine Hat, from there to Brooks, from there to Hanna in Alberta. Then we went down the Goose Lake line to Kindersley, then north to Battle-ford, from Battleford to Saskatoon, and from Saskatoon down the east side of Long lake to the city of Regina. In that drive I think we covered somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2,500 miles in order to find the boundaries of the area that would require assistance this year, and we located them fairly closely.

We also had information from the municipalities and the provincial governments as to the requirements of these different areas, and finally we made an arrangement of this kind with the provincial governments: We said to Alberta: We are prepared to take in fifty-two municipalities in this province, beginning with the first of September, and carry all the costs of providing feed and fodder and direct relief for these fifty-two municipalities to the thirty-first of March next. We went into Saskatchewan and said: We are prepared to take care of 170 municipalities in Saskatchewan, bearing the entire cost of providing feed and fodder and direct relief from the first of September to the thirty-first of March.

Application was made from Manitoba on behalf of three or four municipalities, but we took the position that three or four municipalities-and I think the number might have been extended to probably nine or ten had the matter been pressed further-or even nine or ten municipalities requiring relief in one whole province did not constitute a problem sufficiently great to warrant the federal government stepping in and taking care of them. In other words, we said that in view of the fact that Manitoba had had a good crop over the greater part of the province they should be able to take care of the requirements of nine or ten municipalities this year. May I say that when the other two provinces get anywhere near the position that Manitoba occupied this year, it will be the policy of the government to stop giving this assistance to Saskatchewan and Alberta.

When we adopted those 170 municipalities in Saskatchewan and fifty-two in Alberta, there was still left a very considerable area outside. In Saskatchewan there are eighty-nine other municipalities that are almost as bad this year as any of the 170 municipalities were in the worst years they went through prior to 1937. Conditions are almost as bad as they were in the worst part of the province in 1931, or in 1934, 1935 or 1936, and the drought has extended over the whole of Saskatchewan this year. The province said to

us: We are not in a position entirely to

take care of that other area, and they asked us in the first instance to pursue the same policy as we had followed last year. But we suggested this change, that this year we would allow them a definite cash grant to take care of the area outside the 170 municipalities in Saskatchewan and outside the fifty-two municipalities in Alberta, and that we would give 81,000,000 to Saskatchewan and

S100.000 to Alberta, and would expect them to find any additional money that was required beyond that 81,000,000 in Saskatchewan and S100,000 in Alberta to take care of the situation. That is the policy we have been following this season. We have one hundred per cent of responsibility in the 170 municipalities in Saskatchewan and in the fifty-two municipalities in Alberta, but the provincial governments are taking care of the administration of relief in the whole area, taking care of any costs over and above the cash we have granted to them outside the federal area, and they are entirely responsible for deciding the time at which these municipalities shall come in throughout the year and for carrying on negotiations with regard to them.

I wanted to make that plain because there is just the possibility that the leader of the opposition has been getting his information from the area that is outside the federal area altogether, and if so, any criticism of his remarks here would naturally come from the provincial government rather than from this government. But any criticism with regard to the other area, the area in connection with which we keep a close check on expenditures-by "we" I mean the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Finance, through the check which the auditor's are making-concerns the federal government because we are taking responsibility in connection with all expenditures there.

As to the suggestion that a commission should be set up, this is not the first time such a suggestion has been made. As a matter of fact, a commission was set up previously so far as Saskatchewan is concerned. A commission was set up there in 1931, during the period when the last government was in office at Ottawa; and when the leader of the opposition says, as he did in the words I have just read to the house-

I repeat that when the money of the taxpayers is being spent in this way it certainly should be done by some independent commission, if possible, so as to prevent not only the opportunity but the temptation for political administration-

The Address-Mr. Gardiner

-I say, Mr. Speaker, that we do not have to look ahead to see what the right hon. gentleman might do if he were in charge of government, because we have only to look back to see what he did do. He was in charge of this matter from 1931 to 1935, and there were relief areas in Manitoba in those years; there were relief areas in Alberta, and there was a considerable relief area in Saskatchewan, but not so great an area in any of those years as we have had to deal with this year. What did the previous government do with regard to the matter? They set up a commission, yes, but they set up only one commission, and it operated in only one province. They did not set up a commission in Manitoba; they did not set up a commission in Alberta; they set up a commission in Saskatchewan, the only province that had a government which was favourable and friendly to the government then in power at Ottawa.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

May I correct the hon.

gentleman? He is in error. The commission was set up by Saskatchewan and named by it; there was no commission in Alberta or Manitoba because of the limited nature of the relief operations that were carried on there. They were carried on by the provincial governments and we gave them assistance.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

Yes, and those areas were somewhat limited as compared with other areas during last year. I have no doubt some of the criticisms of which the right hon. gentleman speaks, are coming from Alberta. I venture to say that I have as many criticisms from Alberta as I have from Saskatchewan with regard to administration, and I assume he has too. In so far as the matter of principle is concerned, if we are spending say a million and a half or two million dollars in Alberta and seven or eight million dollars in Saskatchewan, it is just as essential that there should be a commission in one province as in another, and it always has been so from the beginning. But in so far as the leader of the opposition is concerned, when he was in office he appointed or stood for the appointment of a commission only in the one province which had a government that was friendly to the government at Ottawa.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

We did not spend any money for Alberta or Manitoba except through the provincial government.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

Well, we have not spent any money in either Manitoba, Saskatchewan or Alberta except through the provincial government.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Oh, yes, you have.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

Now the right hon. gentleman is suggesting that in one province we should spend through the commission and in the other provinces, I suppose, spend through the provincial governments. I have on my desk a list of the people the commission employed. Do hon. members know how many were employed by the commission or rather by those who were administering its affairs? It might be well at this stage to point out the way these commissions are usually set up. The commission was set up in this manner in Saskatchewan. They took five men, all of whom were busy men, all of whom had their own businesses to attend to, made them a commission, and said, "We are going to make you responsible for administering relief in the province of Saskatchewan."

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

There was a woman besides.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

One of the commissioners was running a whole banking system in the province. Another was carrying on an important business. There was one woman, the wife of a farmer, and every one in the house knows how busy the wife of a farmer is. These people were put in charge of the administration of relief in Saskatchewan. Well, they did what any one does under such circumstances. They went out and hired a group of men to administer relief. Do hon. members know whom they hired? They hired the organizer of the Conservative party from Moose Jaw to take charge of the work; they hired the organizer of the Conservative party from the city of North Battleford to take charge of the field staff, and they hired another organizer of the Conservative party to take charge of the distribution of food relief. They put these men in the office. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, how many men and women they hired during the time they were operating? Eight hundred and thirty-nine. They did not stop there. They would not work through the councils of the municipalities. They went out into the municipalities and selected a senate for those municipalities, an appointed body to do this work. They took one man and made him a paid official, and then they had four persons selected from the municipality to sit in the central office or some other room-they usually hired another room in the town where the municipal offices were-and administered the relief of the province in that way, the council sitting one day and considering the affairs of the municipality, and this selected body of the commission sitting another day and considering the matter of the distribution

The Address-Mr. Gardiner

of relief in the particular place. The paid officials formed a field staff ia the pay of the province, and all the money for the payment of relief was provided by grant made by the right hon. gentleman's government from Ottawa.

I do think, with the system we have now under which this government is paying, when we are at the peak of our movement, forty-five men, our administration, in matters of cost at least, compares very favourably with the eight hundred and thirty-nine that the leader of the opposition had through the province in charge of relief at the time he was in office.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

It is necessary to correct that. The eight hundred men were not employed by the federal government, nor were any of them. They were employed by the commission which was appointed by the province.

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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

That is quite right, Mr. Speaker, but I happened to be leader of the opposition in Saskatchewan during the time this was going on, and I know whom they selected in my constituency. During the time I had been conducting elections in that constituency I had had three opponents, and every one of them was represented among those employed. The opponent in the previous election of the hon. member for Melville (Mr. Motherwell) who represented the same seat in this house, was employed, and two out of the four men I have mentioned lived in the same municipality.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

But they were not

employed by the federal government.

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February 3, 1938