April 4, 1938

LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

The matter of time is surely not so important. I should like to continue along the line that I had intended to follow. But as to the general question which has been put, as I have said, the first obligation for training mechanics lies upon industry. In the second degree that obligation has always rested upon the provinces, which, as this committee is aware, now control the relations between employer and employee, wages and hours and industrial conditions generally. For that reason I want to say frankly to the committee that we as a government did not feel it was desirable, at this stage at any rate, that we should by dominion legislation seek to invade the field of apprenticeship. There have been cases before-and they have been brought to the attention of the house-where the dominion government has by a grant in aid induced provinces-at least they have occasionally told us afterwards that they were induced-more or less, the assumption has been, against their will, into new directions of expenditure. I need only mention agricultural instruction and technical education. Once we have gone into those fields the tendency has always been to make what was designed as a temporary expenditure into a permanent expenditure, and in this way to bring about as it were a transfer of provincial obligations to the dominion by a back-door route, and that has not been a satisfactory method of dealing with the situation.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Would the same

objection not apply to these recreational projects which the dominion is now undertaking?

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

No, because we have proceeded by way of agreement with the provinces. There has been no dominion legislation dealing with the subject of apprenticeship, which, as I have said, does lie and always has lain within provincial jurisdiction.

So far as these youth training projects are concerned, we have dealt with them by agreements with the provinces. But I would say that, within the categories laid down by the national employment commission, we have sought to get the cooperation of the provinces, particularly the industrial provinces, by bringing about what are termed learnership courses; the learnership courses, while they do not constitute apprenticeship in the ordinary sense of that term, do actually train young men for absorption in private industry; and by our continuing these courses over a period of two years or three years, as the case may be, we are enabled to provide in some measure for this lack of trained young men in some of our larger industries. That is particularly true in Ontario, where more progress has been made in that direction than in some of the other provinces in which, after all, there is not the same diversification of industry or the same opportunity for these learnership courses.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

But surely if it is possible to do that in what are termed learner-ship courses, it would be possible to do it in the case of apprenticeship.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

I shall not quarrel with my hon. friend over the use of terms. But I shall say this, that, particularly at the present time, I do not think it is advisable that the dominion parliament should assume what might be regarded as legislative jurisdiction over apprenticeship. That is the point I have in mind. We can assist the provinces by agreement as we are doing in connection with training projects.

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CON

Alexander McKay Edwards

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. EDWARDS:

Very wise.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

My hon. friend agrees with that?

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CON

Alexander McKay Edwards

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. EDWARDS:

I do.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

I believe that anyone who has followed the actual results under these grants in aid, which usually have been given under pressure of immediate circumstances without any clear vision of what they may involve in time to come, will agree that that policy is not one which ought to be continued or extended at the present time. Fortunately we have now reached a position where we shall have a review, and I hope a thorough review, of these interrelations between dominion and province under these indirect arrangements through which the dominion has given financial assistance to the provinces to enable provinces to do what they are obliged to do under the constitution but which, in many instances, they are unwilling to concede to any other legislative authority.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Sometimes they concede it, but say they are unable to do it.

Mr. ROGERSSometimes that has been the case; and I think the leader of the opposition will also agree that we are suffering at the present time from the fact that we as a dominion government have been led under stress of circumstances-to meet emergencies, if you will-into making grants to provinces to enable them to maintain administration with respect to great social services, such as old age pensions, to which this dominion government contributes three-fourths of the cost. I do not believe any member of this house can consider that a sound method of conducting federal relations, and it is one which I hope will be rectified. I do not wish to extend that point at this time, having had occasion to deal with it some time ago. If I speak of it now it is because at the Department of Labour more than any other department one is conscious at all times of working in a field of indefinite jurisdiction where responsibilities are not precise and where, for this reason, there is always the possibility of misunderstanding, friction and recrimination. My right hon. friend referred a moment ago to the fact that there had been certain disintegrating influences in this country in the past few years. I am sure that part of that has been due to this very practice of dealing with some of these problems that touch human need upon the basis of dual and therefore indefinite responsibility as among various governmental agencies. It is not a problem that we can settle here at this time; but it is one of which I believe the country as a whole ought to be aware, and certainly we should not continue farther along a way which has been tried and found wanting in the respects that I have mentioned.

I have every desire that stimulus should be given to apprenticeship. There are certain things that can be and are being done by the Department of Labour here to encourage apprenticeship; but my point has been that it would not be desirable for this dominion parliament to assume anything in the nature of jurisdiction with regard to apprenticeship, practically all industrial matters being at the present time under provincial jurisdiction.

The hon. member for Kootenay East asked me if I would be more precise in connection with the projects which have been established under the youth training plan. In the first place it would be useful to give the various schemes that were proposed:

(a) training projects of an occupational nature devised to increase the employability of young unemployed persons pending employment;

(b) short term learnership courses, not exceeding one year in duration, devised to provide theoretical training concurrent with specific employment;

(c) work projects for young unemployed, incorporating reconditioning, training and conservation features undertaken for the purpose of restoring loss of morale among the young unemployed and conserving natural resources.

In connection with forestry work, for instance, the camps that have been established in a number of provinces would be in accord with that classification.

(d) training projects of a physical nature for young unemployed, to assist in the maintenance of health and morale pending employment.

I have before me in some detail the summary of the training which has been given, and later on I shall be glad to give the results in each of the provinces. The summary goes up to the latest date. I would point out in that connection that a number of provinces in the very nature of things took some time to develop the projects they felt best suited to their needs. It so happens that Ontario and Quebec, the largest industrial provinces, did not actually get into full operation under this plan until October of last year.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Is that to the first of March?

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

It is to the end of January, the latest date for which we have reports. Training was given to 16,072 men and 12,850 women, a total of 28,922.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Will the minister give the figures under each classification?

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

I shall be glad to do that with respect to the different provinces, but at the moment I have the figures arranged in a certain way. I shall give the summary now. I come next to those placed in employment, and that touches a point raised by an hon. member a few moments ago. It was felt by those dealing with this particular problem that the vital need was vocational direction. There is no doubt in the world that the impact of the depression upon the younger men who have come of age in the last few years and have not found work has been unsettling, and the tendency has been to create a kind of hopelessness which requires some sort of continuing direction. I am not going to say that I am satisfied as yet that we have developed a satisfactory system of placement; but we have had it very much in our minds, and we propose to appoint special placement officers in connection with these groups in all provinces and attach them

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to the employment offices. We have already made some progress in that direction, but so far as placements are concerned, in this limited time, the figures are *hese: men, 1,371; women, 731. The number of days' work given in forestry and mining, men, was 151,357. Next we come to the rural courses. There were: men, 5,998, and women, 3,427. In forestry there were: men, 2,416; mining, men, 519; physical training, men, 1,671; women, 4,302. The number of those taken off relief were: men, 2,565, and women, 1,173.

That is merely a summary of what might be termed the beginning of a sound enterprise which fully justifies its continuance. I know, from my own contact with some of those who received this training in various provinces, that to them it has meant something more than the reduction of one or two or three from' the relief rolls. It has meant the possibility of receiving training for some definite occupation and has meant a restoration of morale and a new direction towards independence.

At six o'clock the committee took recess.

After Recess

The committee resumed at eight o'clock.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

Mr. Chairman, perhaps I ought first to the ask the indulgence of the committee as I continue the statement begun this afternoon. On the other hand, it will be remembered that the committee requested a comprehensive statement with respect to unemployment conditions. Certainly the problem itself justifies such a statement, and it has been my endeavour to place before the committee in as much detail as is possible at this time the situation existing at present with respect to unemployment and the results obtained under th_ various measures adopted by the government to deal with it. I propose, however, to move as rapidly as possible toward the conclusion of my remarks.

At six o'clock I was dealing with the youth training agreements. No doubt at a later stage in the discussion there will be ample opportunity to deal with the projects adopted in the various provinces for the training of unemployed young people. I pointed out this afternoon that all provinces had cooperated in the formulation of these training plans. At the same time we have assurances from all provinces that in view of the results obtained during the past year they are prepared to continue these projects to a greater or lesser

degree during the coming year. May I say also that the initiation of these training projects for unemployed young people marks the first action taken by any government in this country in relation to this special aspect of the unemployment problem. In another connection the appointment of a women's employment committee-and certain recommendations from that committee have also found expression in youth training projects- marks the first attempt on the part of any government in this country to deal with that special aspect of the unemployment problem.

We believe that the experience gained during the past year in the development of these training projects for unemployed young people will enable us to improve them materially in the next year. I made it quite clear to the committee this afternoon that we have been moving, as it were, in an experimental way. We have asked the provinces to indicate projects which are best adapted to conditions within their boundaries, and we have sought to focus the training projects in such a way that ultimately they will lead to the absorption of those so trained, in industries which are fully established in the provinces where the training is being given. I also indicated to the committee that we attached great importance to the setting up of a proper placement service in connection with these plans, which, I believe, can be done, and we propose in particular to see that vocational guidance, if I may use that term, is related closely to the various training projects which will be established during the coming year.

In addition to the recommendations of the national employment commission with respect to training projects for unemployed young people, there is also a recommendation for training the unemployed in the older age groups. I may say at once that ,the government is fully seized of the wisdom of extending these plans so far as possible to unemployed men in the older age groups. We realize, as indeed anyone must realize who has followed what has taken place in the last few years, that many men have lost their former occupations, and unless something is done for these men which will assist towards their reabsorption in private industry, the outlook for them is more tragic in some respects than for the unemployed young people. Here again progress towards the improved employability of those who have been out of work during the depression years is dependent upon the active cooperation of the provincial governments. In connection with this question of extending rehabilitation to men in the older age groups, we have been in conference with

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various provincial governments. I am hopeful that we can make substantial progress in this direction during the coming year. The committee will understand that in dealing with matters involving education and apprenticeship, the dominion government may give a lead; the dominion government may initiate, but it must have the full cooperation of the provinces if these plans are to succeed. The alternative would be the setting up by the dominion government of educational services overlapping those already established in the provinces. Clearly that would not be a desirable way of meeting this situation.

I come next to another recommendation of the national employment commission, first made in the interim report and repeated at some length in the final report. That recommendation emphasizes the desirability of establishing a national employment service, a question which has been before the house on various occasions. It so happened that this recommendation by the commission was one of the first that was transmitted to the Minister of Labour. I felt as the commission indicated, that in dealing with an unemployment problem, of the dimensions to which that problem has grown within recent years, it was of great importance that we should have an efficient employment service which would operate along uniform lines so far as possible, and subject to some general national direction. At the time that recommendation was transmitted to me, the legislation passed by the late administration with regard to unemployment insurance was before the courts. I refer to the Employment and Social Insurance Act, which provided for the setting up of a system of employment offices across the dominion. In the circumstances it was felt by the government that it would be preferable to await the decision of the courts with respect to that legislation before giving consideration to the alternative of the dominion establishing of itself a national employment service. It will be remembered by members of the committee that the Unemployment and Social Insurance Act first went to the Supreme Court of Canada, and was then taken on appeal to the privy council, where it was declared ultra vires of the dominion parliament.

We were then faced, in due course, with what further action might be taken by the government in cooperation with the provinces to vest this parliament with full legislative power to deal with unemployment insurance. It is scarcely necessary to remind the committee that the government met the situation by seeking the cooperation of the provinces to secure the necessary amendments to the

British North America Act to make it possible for us to establish a national system of unemployment insurance, carrying with it as a necessary corollary a national employment service. It may be urged that, regardless of the establishment of unemployment insurance, it would have been wise, or would now be wise, to proceed with the setting up of a national employment service, and I should like to say frankly to the committee that from time to time the national employment commission urged that course upon us. On the other hand, I should like to say with equal frankness it was my view that it would not be desirable to deal piecemeal with this question; that it would not be desirable, let us say, for the dominion government to have a national employment service in three or four or five provinces, and provincial employment services in the remaining provinces. I believe that we should at least make every effort to secure an employment service which would operate in all provinces of the dominion, before giving serious consideration to the alternative I have just suggested.

I think we must recognize that, as a matter of fact, under existing constitutional arrangements the provinces have direct control of and interest in industrial conditions. As I said this afternoon, the whole question of the relationship between employer and employee is now within provincial jurisdiction, as is the case also, for instance with wages and hours. No doubt it was due in part to this reason that the setting up of employment offices in this country was left within provincial jurisdiction.

At the present time, as the committee is aware, we have what might be termed a cooperative system with respect to employment offices. In 1918 parliament enacted The Employment Offices Coordination Act. Under that act the sum of 8150,000 is set apart each year and is divided among the provinces upon the basis of their expenditures for employment services in relation to the total expenditures in the dominion for that purpose.

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CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

What do the federal

officials in those offices do?

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

With the few exceptions which I shall mention in a moment or two, there are no federal officials in the employment offices established across the dominion. The personnel of the employment offices of the various provinces is selected by the provincial governments. The dominion government has, attached to the Department of Labour, what might be termed a coordinating agency which operates as a clearing house for information with respect to employment offices under the

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control of the various provincial employment services. There was set up, too, in connection with the reestablishment of war veterans a service which consists largely of special attention being paid to the training and absorption in industry of disabled war veterans. There are some officials-I have not the number before me

appointed by the dominion in some of the provinces who deal with that particular aspect of the problem. Generally speaking, however, the personnel of the employment offices, under the existing system, is appointed by and is under the control of the provincial governments.

May I point out to the committee that under that system the dominion government has only a limited control over employment offices. For example, we cannot compel the provinces to establish employment offices in particular localities. We have no effective control over the selection of the officers in the various employment offices who deal with employment conditions. There is no doubt, I believe, that in some provinces the employment service has fallen below the standard one would wish to have in connection with this very important question.

As I have pointed out, the national employment commission made it quite clear that in their view, and in order particularly to deal with the question of rehabilitation, it was desirable that there should be a national employment service. I do not believe we should enter into competition, so to speak, with the provinces; we cannot compel the provinces to withdraw from the service. Some provinces in western Canada have indicated their willingness to withdraw from the present employment service arrangements, and are quite ready to have those services taken over by the dominion government. On the other hand, we have had no such intimation from the great industrial provinces, so that I feel it would be to the disadvantage of the efficiency of that service if we attempted to set up what might be described as a dual system.

We trust that in due course the various provinces may see the wisdom, in relation to the great problem of economic insecurity, of giving their full cooperation toward setting up a national system of unemployment insurance. If that is done, there is no real problem with respect to the establishment of a national employment service, because the very connection which would be established between unemployment insurance and industry would ensure a situation whereby a system of employment bureaus attached to an unemployment insurance scheme would soon prove its usefulness in competition with any provincial

service, if, indeed, under those conditions the provinces desired to continue the existing services.

I turn next to the recommendation of the national employment commission with reference to rehabilitation through land settlement.

I shall touch upon this matter only briefly to-night. Here, too, the recommendation is one which does not lay exclusive obligations upon the dominion government. The proposal is rather that in connection with the general problem of rehabilitation of those who are now unemployed and on relief, there should be an effective and continuing cooperation between the dominion, the provinces and the municipalities in the rehabilitation of suitable families on the land.

We have had some experience in this matter. As a matter of fact, we have had relief settlement agreements with a number of the provinces, which agreements have been in operation for several years. In the first instance those agreements were established by the late administration, and under them some thousands of families have been established on the land. It must be remembered by hon. members of the committee that last year the house was sharply divided- as to the wisdom of that policy. I would go so far as to say that the success of any policy of the kind depends essentially upon selecting the right people for the right land. Undoubtedly-and I shall not deal with the reasons now-in the relief settlement plans, as they have operated in recent years, there have sometimes been unfortunate selections of people and unfortunate selections of land. Obviously this whole question is one which must receive the further consideration of the government in conference with the provinces. It may well be that based on the experience of the past it will be possible to develop a more effective scheme of rehabilitation than has existed in other years. It is a direction in which we should move carefully and surely because, in connection with soldier land settlement and other arrangements of this kind, this country has had a rather unfortunate experience.

I come next to the recommendation of the commission which incorporates certain proposals made by the women's employment committee. I quote from pages 17 and 18 of the report:

The committee at an early date also drew the attention of the commission to the inadequacy of the existing employment service of Canada to meet the trying demands placed upon it in respect to unemployed women. They endorsed the recommendations of the national employment commission for a unified and extended service. In their final report the vital

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part which such an improved service would play in solving the employment problem of women, and the impossibility of successful attainment without it, are strongly emphasized.

And again:

Finally, the women's employment committee is of the opinion that the dominion government can render a genuine service to all gainfully occupied women, particularly in industry and trade, by establishing in the dominion Department of Labour a women's bureau to undertake research in connection with the employment of women, and to provide the machinery for educating the public to the point that working conditions and wages are improved, all to the end that employment conditions for women may become more attractive.

May I say in that connection that if and when it is possible to establish a national employment service, it is obvious that a proposal such as this is one which could best be expressed within the framework of such a service. Apart from that, however, we have in the Department of Labour at the present time certain research clerks, two of whom are highly qualified women who are, I believe, in a position to do useful work along the lines indicated in the report. They are being instructed to give their attention to this problem as outlined in the report of the national employment commission.

I come now to the recommendation of the commission with respect to low rental housing. I referred to it this afternoon and said that I would return to it before I had finished. The national employment commission made proposals to the government last year with respect to low cost housing. These proposals were later given the form of a draft bill which reached the government at a time when it was not feasible to give it the necessary consideration before the prorogation' of that short session of parliament. This proposal is contained in an appendix to the report. I may say that the proposal is now before the Department of Finance and is being considered in connection with other plans for the stimulus of housing which are now in operation under existing legislation.

It may be known to members of the committee that during the past year there has been a marked increase in building carried on under the Dominion Housing Act. For a time there was good ground for apprehension that the results would be cause for disappointment, but within the past year there has been a marked improvement in the building carried on under this legislation. This has been due in part to the original provisions of the act and in part to certain regulations which were introduced a year ago and which made the act available to a larger number of people.

I turn next to the recommendations of the commission with respect to unemployment aid. In dealing with this section of the report I should like to emphasize that here we have what might be termed a contingent suggestion or expression of opinion upon the part of the national employment commission. That is, the commission, in fulfilling its advisory function and in recognizing an obligation to deal with the problem of unemployment, not merely as it exists immediately but as it might develop within a few years, took the ground that it would be well to consider what action might wisely be taken in connection with unemployment assistance, if and when it was found possible to introduce unemployment insurance on a national basis.

In its introduction to its discussion of this problem the commission emphasizes most of all what it terms a functional division of responsibility in connection with unemployment distress. I have no doubt that members of the committee have read this section of the report and I shall not enter into it in detail at the present time. In commenting upon this section of the report I should like to say that the government agrees in principle with the views expressed by the commission, that a functional division of responsibility for social services is preferable to a system of dual responsibility where the dominion government supports social services within provincial jurisdiction by the payment of grants in aid. This opinion has been expressed on various occasions by members of this government and, if I mistake not, by members on the other side. We believe it is a sound policy that financial and administrative responsibility should be united in the same authority and that the government which controls the spending of money for social services should be responsible for raising such money by taxation. We agree also that the method of supporting unemployment relief by grants in aid from the dominion treasury, with the administrative control remaining with the province and the municipality, is a method which tends to be wasteful and inefficient. This system, however, as the commission has recognized and as it has been recognized on both sides of the house, has been developed within the established principles of our federal constitution.

Until the constitution is altered the dominion government is under obligation to observe the existing distribution of powers and responsibilities in relation to social services. While the national employment commission recognizes that the system under which the dominion government assists the provinces

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by grants in aid for unemployment relief is one that should properly be followed within the constitutional structure, the majority report of the commission directs attention to the fact that the royal commission on dominion-provincial relations is now conducting an investigation with a view to the reconsideration and readjustment of the obligations and taxing powers now assigned to the dominion parliament and the provincial legislatures. The report observes also that the dominion government has sought the cooperation of the province in order to bring about a nationally administered system of unemployment insurance. The report proceeds in the following terms:

This commission also recognizes that the establishment of a national system of unemployment insurance would necessitate a supplementary system of unemployment aid to meet those phases of unemployment need which experience abroad has shown cannot be covered by unemployment insurance. Such a supplementary system of unemployment aid would, in its opinion and for reasons stated later, be best administered by the dominion. This further step would necessitate determination by the royal commission on dominion-provincial relations of the financial basis on which such a system should be established, and in the light of relevant considerations, of the wisdom of further constitutional and financial changes. The national employment commission does not consider it to be within its competence to express an opinion on these changes, other than to record its considered judgment that if financial and constitutional considerations should permit, the coordination of a nationally administered system of unemployment insurance and employment offices, buttressed by a similarly administered system of unemployment aid, would have decisive advantages over the present system in coping with problems of employment and unemployment.

In summing up its views under this head, the majority report contains the following observations:

In stating thus its opinion the commission is not judging the financial abilities of the various governments nor the sources from which the funds should be derived; nor has it given consideration to any compensating readjustments which might be considered a necessary part of such a system; all these things it considers to be beyond its purview.

It is, however, recommending that the royal commission on dominion-provincial relations give consideration to the views here expressed, as well as to the many other relevant factors which fall outside the national employment commission's terms of reference.

The objections to the ultimate assumption of dominion responsibility for unemployment aid are set out in the dissenting report of Mrs. Sutherland. She expresses the view that "in spite of errors in the practices surrounding the giving of dominion financial assistance through

grants in aid, the primary responsibility of the government closest to the applicant is fundamental." She states further:

Although a change to a centralized system where the dominion assumes administrative responsibility may have some advantages in the mechanics of its application, any new system designed to finance and administer so uneconomic a national burden as distress resulting from loss of income because of no work, is liable also to many abuses.

Ia general the dissenting report stresses the importance of social assistance being administered by municipal officials with knowledge of local conditions, and with the restraint of municipal taxation operating as a deterrent to waste and laxity of administration. This view is still strongly held by some provinces of the dominion where direct relief has been eliminated or reduced to small proportions.

The dominion government has already indicated its willingness in cooperation with the provinces to secure a constitutional amendment which will permit it to introduce a national system of unemployment insurance. A national system of unemployment insurance will require for its effective administration a national organization of employment offices. In its majority report the commission has recognized that the establishment of a nationally administered system of unemployment aid must depend upon two conditions: First,

the adoption of a national system of unemployment insurance; second, a revision of existing obligations and financial powers under the federal constitution. Since the subject of unemployment aid is bound up with the larger questions of redistribution of responsibility for social services and reallocation of revenue sources which are now before the royal commission on dominion-provincial relations, the government has decided to reserve judgment on this section of the report until that commission has completed its investigation and has submitted its findings. We feel that this is the only position we can properly take in the circumstances. Any other course at this time would involve either an arbitrary curtailment of the terms of reference already issued to the royal commission on dominion-provincial relations or a process in bargaining with the provinces on one particular feature of constitutional readjustment in advance of the more comprehensive settlement which it is hoped will emerge from the present investigation of dominion-provincial relations.

In this connection it may be stated that certain provinces have suggested that they would be willing to assume the entire cost of unemployment relief if the dominion government would consent to the reallocation

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of revenues now collected within the provinces under federal legislation. It is clear that any formal discussion of such a proposal would be equally impossible in advance of the findings of the royal commission on dominion-provincial relations.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
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CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

Before the minister

leaves that question, may I ask if the department has considered the United States system of unemployment insurance. They had similar constitutional difficulties to ours in Canada, but they overcame them by a different system of application. Has the United States system been considered by the government here?

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

The Department of Labour, in giving its attention to unemployment insurance, has given serious thought to the systems which have prevailed in other countries, and I assume also that the late administration gave the same serious study to the alternative methods of a national system of insurance and systems such as now prevail in the United States. I do not wish to comment adversely upon the arrangements which now exist in the United States; but at the same time I understand that the establishment of separate schemes in different states has led already to serious complications, particularly in adjoining states where there are large working populations, for instance, in the state of New Jersey, where many working people reside and yet go to work in the state of New York. I simply mention that in passing. I can, however, assure my hon. friend that we have gone very carefully into the systems of unemployment insurance which prevail in other countries.

In connection with its recommendations as to administrative machinery, the national employment commission suggests the desirability of setting up in the Department of Labour a small administrative committee which would assist in carrying out the recommendations of the commission. There is also the suggestion that this committee should act in close cooperation with a subcommittee of the cabinet which also would give special consideration to unemployment problems. A subcommittee of the cabinet already exists for the purpose indicated.

We have in the Department of Labour a number of officers each of whom is concerned with particular branches of the work of the department in relation to unemployment. It is my own thought at the present time that in carrying out this suggestion, instead of setting up a detached advisory committee, which would have had no intimate connection with the problems of administration, it would be desirable that the committee should be

composed of these several officers of the department who have a day-to-day acquaintance with special aspects of the problem of unemployment. Certainly in our future action in this regard we shall do our utmost to see that there is a continuous and careful coordination of the work of the Department of Labour with that of other departments concerned with various aspects of relief and unemployment questions.

This report, and the main recommendations which I have discussed this afternoon and this evening, represent a genuine and useful effort upon the part of the members of the commission and the two advisory committees to give the government and the country some definite direction for the future in connection with this continuing question of economic insecurity. I say that regardless of whether or not I as Minister of Labour am in complete agreement with all the recommendations of the commission. It will be understood by this committee that this commission, and, indeed, royal commissions in general, are called upon to deal with problems under definite terms of reference. That is inevitable and unavoidable. But it has been found by the late administration and, indeed, by all administrations in this country, that a commission charged to deal with a particular problem under definite terms of reference will sometimes, and quite justly from its point of view, make recommendations which from the standpoint of the government it is necessary to reconcile with broader considerations of policy. That undoubtedly is the explanation of the failure on the part of governments-all governments-to accept and implement all recommendations which appear in reports of royal commissions. This government, let me say, feels that in connection with the problem of unemployment it has received able assistance from the national employment commission and the committees on youth employment and women's employment. I have indicated this afternoon some of the distinct and practical advantages which already have flowed from the acceptance by this government of recommendations of that commission, and these advantages will continue to operate during future years.

I shall have reason a little later to indicate to the committee that during the period the national employment commission has been in operation there has been a marked improvement in employment conditions. I am not suggesting that this improvement in conditions has been due wholly or even in large measure to the recommendations made by the commission which have been adopted by the government. I merely say at this time that the commission gave very careful thought to the

Relief and Agricultural Distress

problem committed to it, and that it made to the government various recommendations, some of which have been accepted, for the reasons I have given, some of which have been rejected and some others of which have been held in suspense, also for reasons that I have given. But of this I am very sure, looking back over these last two years, that the establishment of the national employment commission was a wise measure, and I can testify to the fact that during a very difficult period I as Minister of Labour received most valuable assistance from the chairman and members of that commission.

I wish to turn now to what might be described as another aspect of the unemployment problem. Thus far I have been discussing measures directed toward the relief situation or special measures proposed by the national employment commission to provide additional employment. But this government has never attempted to deceive the house or the country with the suggestion that the true cure of unemployment lay in any project which could be developed by an advisory body or which would assume the form of large public expenditures. This government from the very beginning has taken the view that in the long run, and looking toward any permanent solution of economic insecurity, if we can think in terms of permanence in that regard, the true path along which we should go is that of expanding trade and expanding industrial activity. And when as Minister of Labour I deal with the unemployment question, I feel that I would not be doing justice to the problem if I did not refer to the measures taken by this government to deal with the expansion of trade and the promotion of industrial activity. It may be recalled that the opinion was expressed in the house not long ago that it was impossible to revive foreign trade. There are those who said in explicit terms that foreign markets were dead, although I doubt very much if those who made that statement realized the full implications of it for the Canadian people-

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Who said it?

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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April 4, 1938