March 21, 1938

RADIO BROADCASTING

FIRST REPORT OF STANDING COMMITTEE CONCURRED IN


Mr. A. L. BEAUBIEN (Provencher) moved that the first report of the standing committee on radio broadcasting, presented to the house on Friday, March 11, be concurred in. Motion agreed to.


CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS

MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES

CCF

Abraham Albert Heaps

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. A. A. HEAPS (Winnipeg North):

Mr. Speaker, under standing order 31 I desire to ask leave to move the adjournment of the

house for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance namely, the proposed lay-off of large numbers of employees of the Canadian National Railway shops throughout Canada.

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES
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LIB

Walter Edward Foster (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Is it the pleasure of the house that the hon. member shall have leave to introduce his motion?

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES
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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, just before my hon. friend proceeds, may I ask your honour whether notice of his intention has

been brought to your honour's attention and if you agree that the matter is one of urgent public importance?

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES
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LIB

Walter Edward Foster (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

The matter was brought to my attention this morning by the hon. member, and I think it would be in order for him to proceed to discuss the matter if he has a sufficient number of members to support him.

And leave having been granted:

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES
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CCF

Abraham Albert Heaps

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. HEAPS:

Mr. Speaker, I do not propos. to discuss the general question of unemployment; I shall confine myself to the terms of the motion to adjourn the house for the purpose of discussing the proposed lay-off in the Canadian National Railway Shops, not only in the greater Winnipeg area, but as I understand it, throughout the whole Dominion of Canada. The lay-offs are to take place within the next few days, when, according to my information, many thousands of employees of the Canadian National Railways will find themselves without employment, and many without the means of subsistence.

It is rather a serious thing, Mr. Speaker, that the government, who are really, in a sense, the owners of the Canadian National Railway shops-

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES
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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:

Not the government.

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES
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CCF

Abraham Albert Heaps

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. HEAPS:

The Prime Minister is quite right, I should have said the management of the railways. It is a serious step for the management to take, and reduce the personnel by approximately fifteen per cent. I am not entirely blaming the management of the railway for the drastic step they are taking, probably by reason of falling revenues and the falling business barometer. Nevertheless we have a responsibility in this house when we find that employment conditions are becoming worse and that the management of the government railway propose to discharge a large number of employees at a time when there is very little opportunity for the men to find employment in any other part of the dominion.

C.N.R.-Shop Employees

I maintain that the government have a responsibility for two reasons: first, because the railways are a government owned institution; and second, because large orders have been placed by the railways with private concerns for the manufacture of railway equipment which, I have been told by employees of the railways, could have been produced in the railway shops themselves. That may not be a very important factor if we discuss the unemployment situation from the dominion standpoint, but in so far as the government shops are concerned it is indeed a most important consideration.

I wish to draw the attention of the government also to the fact that if numbers of men are laid off, as stated, it is going to throw upon the municipalities a burden which it is almost impossible for them to bear. We have been told time and time again in this house that unemployment is in part a municipal as well as a federal responsibility, but in a matter of this kind I do not think that any member of this house would care to suggest that the municipalities ought to be burdened with the additional cost that would no doubt be thrown upon them if this large number of men were without employment.

I have received, as no doubt other hon. members have, communications from the municipalities showing how apprehensive they are of the existing situation with regard to this proposed lay-off. I will not do more than quote a part of one communication from the Winnipeg Suburban Municipal Association. Under date of March 12, they have written a letter-I have no doubt the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) and other members have received a similar communication-which reads in part as follows:

The Winnipeg Suburban Municipal Association view with very serious alarm the announced policy of the Canadian National Railways to lay off a large number of their employees^ in the Transcona and Fort Rouge shops which would result in increasing considerably the relief burden of municipalities already taxed beyond their limit, and which measure would also constitute an incentive to other large employers of labour to follow suit.

This is signed by Ernest Gagnon, secretary of the Winnipeg Suburban Municipal Association.

Perhaps it would not be out of place for me to indicate what it means to the municipalities when a large number of men are thrown upon public relief. I will give the figures for the city of Winnipeg covering the seven year period from 1931 to 1937 inclusive. During that period the total cost of relief in Winnipeg was 824,162.191. Of that amount the share which the city of Winnipeg had to carry was $9,944,083. The peak of this load

was in the year 1935, when Winnipeg had a burden on its own account of $1,886,504. The estimate for 1937-the fiscal year and the calendar year in Winnipeg being identical- was SI.520,000 for unemployment relief. While it is true that unemployment has decreased by a small percentage, about ten per cent as regards relief, the burden is practically the same as it was in the peak years, for the reason, as I am informed by those who administer relief in Winnipeg, that owing to the increased cost of living the reduction in the number of unemployed makes little difference, and the burden is therefore more or less the same from the standpoint of the municipalities.

The city of Winnipeg had to provide this amount by borrowings; it could not do it out of taxation. I am further informed by an alderman who was here last week to interview the government that Winnipeg has now to provide annual interest charges to the extent of over half a million dollars as a result of capital expenditures incurred for unemployment relief during the past seven years.

At this time, when unemployment relief expenditures are breaking the back, not only of Winnipeg, but of many another municipality in Canada, it becomes a very serious matter to have a further load placed on municipalities in consequence of any large lay-off in the railway shops, whether they belong to the government or are privately controlled; and the government should either see that the thousands of men laid off obtain employment, or, if it is said that this cannot be done, see to it that they shall not be thrown upon the municipalities, thus adding to the cost of relief.

I do not want to go further into the question at this time. We have been hearing a good deal in this chamber about the more prosperous conditions that prevail in Canada, but I am inclined to think that the proposed lay-off in the railway shops is indicative of conditions that are beginning to manifest themselves in various parts of the country. I understand that in other large industrial establishments employing considerable numbers of men the same conditions are becoming apparent. This ought to act as a warning to the government of what may happen in the immediate future. We as the elected representatives of the people cannot allow a condition of this kind to prevail without taking definite steps to meet it.- My only object in bringing this matter to the attention of the government and of the house is to ask that definite steps be taken to meet the conditions that have arisen and are likely to

C.N.R.-Shop Employees

arise in other industries, to the end that the men involved will not become a public charge. These men do not want to be the recipients of public relief; they ask for an opportunity to work and to earn their own living.

Without going into the greater question of unemployment at large, which no doubt will be taken up later in the session, I should like to see the government take definite action to avert the threatened catastrophe so far as thousands of men on government railways are concerned.

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES
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LIB

Ralph Maybank

Liberal

Mr. RALPH MAYBANK (Winnipeg South Centre):

I am glad that the hon. member for Winnipeg North (Mr. Heaps) has raised this question, but sorry that it was necessary for him to do so. I had not been aware that the lay-off he has been speaking of was to be so widespread. I had rather had intimation that it would take place only in the neighbourhood of my own city; it is all the more serious if it is to apply over the entire country. I look at the matter, of course, from the point of view of my own city. It is a sad and serious circumstance, and if anything at all can be done to avert the calamity I urge most earnestly that it be done.

I do not propose to speak at length on the subject. I believe that the main point with reference to this tragedy-one can call it nothing less-was very well covered by the hon. member who has just spoken. It seems strange that remarks should be made about men going on relief coupled with the incident of a short, or relatively short, lay-off. It might be thought that persons who have been at work a considerable length of time would not immediately reach the relief rolls. But the situation in railway life is briefly this. In the first place, men work according to their seniority; those who are junior in the service will be laid off first, and all the men to be laid off, variously estimated at from 500 to 1,000, will be junior men. For the last several years they have not had any opportunity of saving money. The matter came home to me most pointedly when I received in the mail a letter signed by a large number of men-I estimate at least about 350. It was the original document, with the actual signatures -not a copy. I was pained and greatly surprised to see included in the list such a large number of men I know personally, and of whose circumstances I am keenly aware. If men such as these are put out of work at this time they are bound to reach the relief rolls almost immediately, and they will be a charge upon the dominion government, the provincial government and the municipality. The city of Winnipeg and the surrounding

municipalities are simply unable to carry the load which may thus be imposed upon them. Winnipeg itself is in a very difficult situation financially at the present time and cannot carry any more. If there is anything the government can do to avert such a catastrophe, I urge most earnestly that it be done.

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES
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LIB

Leslie Alexander Mutch

Liberal

Mr. L. A. MUTCH (Winnipeg South):

A large number of the men to be laid off if this proposal is carried through are my own people, a large percentage of whom live in the constituency which I represent, in which the Fort Rouge shops are located. It occurs to me, knowing the conditions which have obtained with respect to railway workers generally in that locality for a number of years, that at this time, the government-owned railway can hardly afford to lead the procession in creating unemployment. We have had a situation in our city which amounts to the maintenance of what I call a labour pool. As far back as last September or October I had some communication with the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers) with respect to this labour pool. Last summer we had a lay-off on the other railway, some 590 men, and about that number of families found themselves on relief within thirty days. A few of the men found some kind of temporary employment. The situation on the other railroad has been more or less similar, and I fear that this is the beginning of it, or rather a renewal of it, on the Canadian National. The taxpayers of the greater Winnipeg area have been maintaining 500 to 600 trained railway workers for about nine months of each year for the last four or five years in order that the Canadian Pacific Railway Company might enjoy their services for the remaining part of the year; last year I think they worked about nine weeks. We have been congratulating ourselves that the city was not asked to bear that kind of burden imposed upon it by the government-owned railway.

The situation is made even worse by the fact that those who should know tell us that there is enough outstanding work to keep everyone who has been trained in railway shops working. The men have been gratified at the measure of employment and the sense of security they have had in their jobs; and then this kind of thing comes along and spoils it all.

Frankly, I am more interested in the humanitarian aspect than any other. I know a large percentage of these people; many of them have been working only part time for the last six or seven years. They have had barely enough work to keep themselves

C.N.R.-Shop Employees

going, and their resources and their household goods have been constantly diminishing. Whenever they got work they had to do a certain amount of replenishing, so that there have been no savings over their daily needs. If, therefore anything can be done to avoid a repetition of what happened last summer on the other railroad in respect to the laying off of men, I hope the government will do it.

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES
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LIB

John Power Howden

Liberal

Mr. J. P. HOWDEN (St. Boniface):

I could not very well claim to represent the constituency that sent me here if I failed to say a word on this occasion. The shop that will perhaps be most largely affected by this lay-off is the Transcona shop. When the Grand Trunk Pacific railway was built the starting point was made at a point about five miles from Winnipeg, called Transcona. Extensive shops were built there, and a plant established covering between a quarter- and a half-section of land. A town of about 7,000 inhabitants grew up around the shops. As Ottawa depends on the seat of government and the civil service for maintenance, so the town of Transcona depends on the shops of the Canadian National Railways. North Winnipeg and south Winnipeg, and to a very large degree the city of St. Boniface, from which I come, also have considerable numbers of men working in the Transcona shops.

The government have stated time and again that there shall be no political interference with the management of the Canadian National Railways. But years ago the government assumed the role of government ownership of this railway, and it makes little difference what attitude may be proclaimed from this house or elsewhere; the government is in some degree held responsible for the welfare of the railway. When the last administration was in office an advance of some $15,000,000 was made to the two railway systems for the purchase of equipment. We naturally thought that this money would be expended largely by the railways directly in their own shops, but a very large proportion of it went to contract shops. I have heard quite recently that the Canadian National Railways are expending a further $6,000,000 or $7,000,000 in railway contract shops. The government ought to be consistent in this matter; having adopted government ownership of the railway, they should see it through. It is true that the men who work in the contract railway shops need to live, the same as the employees of the Canadian National Railways. But that is not so much a direct concern of the government as the continued operation of the shops of the government owned railway.

As has been already pointed out by previous speakers, if these men are thrown out of

employment there will be thrown on Transcona and St. Boniface and Winnipeg and other municipalities an insupportable burden. I feel that this matter can be readily adjusted, and therefore I wish to add my word of protest and appeal to the Minister of Transport (Mr. Howe) and the government in this connection.

Mr. A. MacG. YOUNG (Saskatoon): Mr. Speaker, so far we have heard from hon. members who live in or near the city of Winnipeg. I represent a constituency in which there is a very large group of Canadian National railway workers, and I might add that I know of no finer group of people anywhere. It has been and must be recognized that the government has not direct control in connection with this matter. This railway is under a board of management, who in turn have under them officials of the road, and I have always been very proud to think that by and large there has not been political interference at any time in the management of the Canadian National Railways. I do not think we should urge the government or the management of the company to do something that should not be done, but I do believe that in times like these, particularly in western Canada, to take away employment from men under the conditions which exist there is something which, if at all possible, unquestionably should be avoided.

In regard to Saskatchewan in general we have heard in this house very much about the general difficulties that exist, and it will be recognized that when men are laid off work it is going to add to an already intolerable burden. My suggestion to the government is that if there is work that can properly be done, particularly in these western provinces, by all means let us advance to the railways whatever money will be required in order that such useful and proper work may be carried on. I would very much rather see public works constructed than have men receiving the dole. I have never advocated the construction of public works merely for something to do; they must be of a type and kind which will be useful, and which will not thereafter add to the burden on the state. I believe that in these railway shops useful work can be done, and I am going so far as to ask the government to urge the officials of the Canadian National Railways to go the limit in providing work during these very difficult periods for the men who are engaged by that company.

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES
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LIB

John Mouat Turner

Liberal

Mr. J. M. TURNER (Springfield):

Mr. Speaker, I rise to endorse what has been al-

C.N.R.-Shop Employees

ready said, and particularly the remarks of the last speaker. In my constituency there are a great many employees of the Canadian National Railways at Transcona and Fort Rouge. These men live in East Kildonan, but work in the Canadian National shops. I have received many complaints from them in regard to this matter, and I urge the government to do whatever can be done for these men.

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES
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LIB

Robert Emmett Finn

Liberal

Mr. R. E. FINN (Halifax):

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member for Winnipeg North (Mr. Heaps), and the other hon. gentlemen who have spoken. It does seem to me that at a time in the history of Canada when there is so much unemployment-though it has been largely reduced-the government through the management of the Canadian National Railways, should not set a new pace in regard to further unemployment. In my own constituency of Halifax there are very many men out of employment under the National Harbours Board, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Transport (Mr. Howe). I regret that the minister is not in his place to-day to deal with the question that is before the house for consideration.

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

He is here.

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES
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LIB

Robert Emmett Finn

Liberal

Mr. FINN:

I am very glad he is here and that he will hear what I am going to say. It seems to me that, since seniority counts, it is the juniors who will be put out on the sidewalk if this retirement is carried out, and while we have not direct responsibility in connection with the Canadian National Railways, which are under Mr. Hungerford and a board of directors, something should be done. Not long ago there was appointed to that board a gentleman from Cumberland county, Nova Scotia, the president of the Liberal association of that province. It seems to me things are coming to a pretty pass when we pick a political friend, the active head of the Liberal party in Nova Scotia, and put him on the board of management of the Canadian National Railways.

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES
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LIB

Joseph-Arthur Bradette

Liberal

Mr. BRADETTE:

What about Mr. Guthrie?

Topic:   CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS
Subtopic:   MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT TO DISCUSS MATTER OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE-PROPOSED LAY-OFF OF SHOP EMPLOYEES
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March 21, 1938