April 4, 1938

CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

It is a relief problem, not an employment problem.

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

Harry James Barber

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BARBER:

Is it not true that large numbers have left the dried out area in the last few years and moved to other parts?

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

Quite a number have-some to British Columbia and some to the other provinces. One must hope that with improved conditions, or even with the prospect of improved conditions, there may be a return movement of those people to the farms which have been abandoned.

The point I was trying to convey to the committee was that in the western provinces the problem is one of relief, as the leader of the opposition has said; it is not an unemployment problem. When one comes to the cities of western Canada-and I think I understand to some degree their plight; for I have been in most of them, and from day to day I am brought into active contact with conditions prevailing there-one concludes that the employment in those cities is, to a large degree, a reflection of the persistent drought.

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

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

Absolutely.

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:

Not wholly.

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

There is comparatively

little manufacturing in western Canada- again I have the figures here, but I shall not weary the committee by giving them now. I have, however, figures which show that in those western provinces the bulk of unemployment in the cities exists in what might be called service trades, distributing trades or retail trades. Of course, where there is manufacturing, we have unemployment. But my point is that in western Canada we have had conditions-and they existed also during the time of the late administration-where improvement depended upon climatic factors, upon nature, if you like, and-

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

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

Rain.

Relief and Agricultural Distress

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

-rain, yes, as the Minister of Finance has said. These are conditions which we must meet as a national emergency, and upon the basis of giving subsistence and further aid where they may be wisely given; this government has met this emergency upon that basis. I am not going into that aspect of it because the Minister of Agriculture has dealt with it already in one connection and will do so again. But we have met that situation and we have provided the drought areas of the west with subsistence. We have also given assistance toward the planting of the new crop which, given sufficient rain, is the one thing that will restore normal conditions in these western provinces.

Let me say further that the persistence of these abnormal conditions in western Canada and the withdrawal of ten of thousands-I am putting it conservatively-of our people from the production, of income have had a natural reflection upon industrial activity in other parts of the country. When we consider the figures to which I referred a moment ago in the light of the fact that the great wheat producing area of the dominion has been largely out of production for seven years, I think we have reason for confidence and not for pessimism.. We must all trust that the west will once more return to production. When that happens, there will be a quick reflection of these conditions upon such unemployment as does exist in western cities and upon employment conditions in central Canada.

It is well that these great industrial provinces should remember that although they are now required to assist the west, in earlier years they were aided in their development by the growth of the western market. It is very easy to forget that in these days, it is very easy for people to say that the east is supporting the west, but the west with its great primary industries has helped the east materially. I know of factories in the maritime provinces-and the same is true throughout Ontario and Quebec-that have been established or expanded upon the basis of that great western market. The east is as much interested in the revival of western Canada as is western Canada itself. Instead .of each asking what the other is doing for it, it would be infinitely better for this country to realize that its different sections, no matter what their industrial occupations may be, are bound together by an economic connection, and that what benefits one, in 51952-127

the long run tends to benefit another. Our policies in relation to relief and unemployment must be policies motivated by a desire to preserve and restore national unity. It has been said on all sides of this chamber that this is the great problem confronting us at the present time; I have no desire to add greatly to what has been said on this matter. There is good ground for confidence in the existing situation in Canada, and if we are able to avoid sectional differences and cleavages there is no reason why this country cannot meet every problem with which it may be confronted.

In relation to this unemployment question I confess that sometimes it has seemed to be the labour of Sisyphus. If I may change my figure of speech, there have been times when we seemed to be ever climbing up a climbing wave. At that period I tried to be as frank as I have been to-day in presenting the actual truth of the situation. However, when we survey the record of substantial advancement during the past two years, we should accept it as ground for encouragement for the future. I believe we have made some mistakes and miscalculations, but on the whole I think we can look back upon what has been done in the past two years as a substantial contribution to the alleviation of our unemployment situation.

I do not think for a moment that any Minister of Labour, whoever he might be, could be satisfied with conditions as they exist to-day. He could not be satisfied in the light of the unemployment that still exists. But I believe we have pursued a sound policy and I think we may claim credit for having avoided some unsound policies. Upon the basis of what we have done, upon the basis of what we are still ready to do, I believe we may still ask for and receive the full confidence of the people of this country.

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

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. J. S. WOODSWORTH (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Chairman, I think the committee will appreciate the careful and comprehensive review of the activities of his department which has been given us by the minister. I note that in the resolution before us we have included the alleviation of both unemployment and agricultural distress. It seems to me to be unfortunate that these two matters should have been included in the same motion. For the greater part of his time the minister dealt almost entirely with relief questions, but toward the end he gave us the impression that the relief which was

Relief and Agricultural Distress

necessary was caused largely by natural conditions on the prairies. The minister recognized in the earlier part of his speech that economic security was the most important question before the people of Canada. That is true; yet the Department of Labour, which deals with a great variety of questions relating to economic security is a minor spending department.

Until the latter part of his speech, the minister spent nearly all of his time in dealing with the problems of relief. He did not go into the question of the causes of unemployment. When he attempted to say anything about remedies for unemployment, he fell back very largely-if I can remember all of his three-hour speech-on the tourist trade and matters of tariff.

I believe the minister was right when he referred to the improvement that had taken place by getting rid of the relief camps as they were being conducted. But we still have the problem of the single homeless man. A number of these men have been taken care of under the farm placement scheme, but after all this has been rather a cheap way of boarding out these men. A great number of these single homeless men can be regarded as casualties of our industrial system. Instead of having our industrial system care for them, if necessary out of its reserves as has been suggested in the textile commission report recently tabled, we are throwing them out on their own or asking that they be taken care of in the agricultural districts. I do not think that is the way to handle a great problem of that kind.

Again, it is true that the department has made some progress with its home improvement plan, but I suggest that it has not been on a sufficiently large scale either to take care of the mechanics who have been displaced by the depression or to provide the necessary housing accommodation for our people.

The minister has told us that the government has adopted a broad coordinated program, but notwithstanding his lengthy speech I must say that he has not divulged to us very clearly the nature and terms of such a program. I really could not discover that he has told us just how the government proposes to solve this great problem. I do not want to be unkind, for I respect the minister very highly, but it seems to me that he spent a considerable part of his time in trying to tell us why we could not do anything. He raised the old constitutional objections as a reason why it was quite impossible to adopt the main recommendations of the commission.

The commission was appointed, we all remember, nearly two years ago. It was to help solve a pressing problem. Two years have gone by. There has been extreme distress in many parts of this country, and the distress is not confined to western Canada. I happened to be in New Brunswick only last week, and although they have withdrawn relief I find that the unemployed people in Saint John are complaining bitterly about the scheme that has been adopted, to which we have just been told this government is giving some assistance. According to the reports I heard, the scheme is far from satisfactory. So, although I am a westerner, I do not want the committee to get the impression that unemployment is confined to the west, because those of us who are closely connected in any way with the labour movement have it impressed upon us almost every day through our correspondence that there is still a vast amount of unemployment throughout the country.

In the two years that have elapsed since the commission's appointment there has undoubtedly been a certain recovery; but the commission has been so long in reporting that already, even before the commission's report was laid before us, we are apparently heading into another depression. The work of the commission has dragged along until it has got past the time when it could have most favourably reported, and we are already facing, as the leader of the opposition warned us the other day, a new depression. Worse than all, even according to the minister's own statement, the government cannot implement the recommendations of the commission until we have before us the findings of the royal commission on dominion-provincial relations.

Really this appointment of commissions seems to be an excellent way of getting nothing done. The government appointed the national employment commission two years ago and asked them to advise us what to do on this problem of unemployment. They go on for two years, and before the end of the two years another commission is appointed- the commission on dominion-provincial relations. Then, when the national employment commission reports, it tells us that we shall have to await the findings of this new commission! The minister himself says he cannot accept the findings of the national employment commission until he has before him the findings of the second commission, and I suppose it will be another year or more before that commission reports.

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:

The textile commission, too.

Relief and Agricultural Distress

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

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

That was over two years ago. I am referring now, not to the textile commission, but rather to the royal commission on dominion-provincial relations. According to the minister, we cannot have the recommendations of the national employment commission implemented until the other commission reports.

I should like to raise what may seem like a very small matter, but it is extremely difficult for us to follow easily this rather complicated final report of the commission partly because, among other things, of the extremely involved sentences. I tried to go over the report over the weekend and I found considerable difficulty. Take this sentence, for example. I am inclined to think that two letters have been transposed and that for "on" before "statutory," we should read "no" in paragraph (b) on page 28. It reads:

(b) the qualifications for unemployment insurance (which involves a statutory right for the recipient), or for unemployment aid (which involves an exgratia allowance based on need carrying on statutory right for the recipient because no contribution has been made), can be made clear and precise, susceptible of proof and capable of being determined by a dominion employment service: stated briefly, they would be-having been self-supporting; having been employed; and/or being now capable of employment though unemployed.

I shall have to take a breath after that. Or take this sentence on page 30:

In the latter ease the burden of providing for unemployment need in the case of those not covered by the insurance fund or for those who have exhausted their benefits, thus placed upon the provinces and/or municipalities, will only add to the popular agitation for extended insurance benefits the interested pressures of these provincial and municipal governments.

It is not the minister who is to blame for this, but I would suggest that someone be set aside by the government to step down these phrases into terms that could be comprehended by all of us.

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

Angus MacInnis

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

Mr. MacINNIS:

Get another royal commission to do it.

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

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Again, I think there are some rather artificial and arbitrary distinctions drawn in the report. For instance, aid; assistance; relief; voluntary aid-one needs to get the meaning of these terms very clearly into one's head if he is to understand the pages and pages of discussion that follow. Or, take the distinction which the minister himself emphasized between an apprenticeship and a learnership. I think the minister had hard work to explain to us the constitutional difference that sets the two so far apart. I am inclined to think there was a constitutional difficulty first; then a question of policy, and that these words were almost

51952-127J

invented in order that the government might approve assistance to "learnership" although it would not approve assistance to "apprenticeship."

The main recommendation, I take it, of the commission was that the dominion government should become responsible for at least a part of the program for dealing with unemployment. That is why some of our more reactionary newspapers are condemning the report of the commission; and perhaps their opposition is one reason for my thinking there is something good in the report of the commission. The minister says he agrees in principle, and I suppose he speaks for the government, but I should like to know what it means to agree in principle and yet not be prepared to implement the recommendations or to do anything except, as he says, give them very careful consideration.

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

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

It does not mean a

thing.

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

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I agree with the

hon. member for Davenport that "It does not mean a thing." I wish the minister could take time during this discussion to tell us just what he considers it means when the government says it "agrees in principle" with this recommendation that places a certain definite responsibility upon the dominion government. I know it is stated that there is a certain functional responsibility. Again, that is a purely arbitrary arrangement. In any case, if we cannot carry out that functional responsibility because of the British North America Act; if the dominion government will not take any definite steps to see that the dominion has the power to alter it, and if the government refers the matter to the provinces under such conditions that it is practically impossible that all the provinces will agree to its endorsation, then what does it all mean?

We are back where we were two years ago, before the commission was appointed. It seems to me ridiculous that, with the distress there has been for some years in Canada, and with the fuss about the appointment of a royal commission, and the very heavy expenditures involved in the appointment of that commission, when the report comes in, almost all that is vital in it should be agreed to "in principle," but the committee should be told that really the government cannot do anything about it. It is just a case of "as you were."

The commission recommends that there should be certain changes in administration. The commission had no administrative functions; it was purely advisory. On page 43 it

iteliej and Agricultural Distress

is suggested that we should have a small administrative committee to be entrusted with the practical application of national employment commission recommendations as approved by the dominion government. Apparently that recommendation is not to be accepted. We are to have a national system of unemployment insurance. Of course that cannot be accepted. Then we are to have an interdepartmental committee of officials, and apparently the minister considers that nothing more is necessary than that which we already possess. Under those circumstances it was high time, I think, for the commission to fold up. It was rather an inglorious ending. The minister was quite laudatory as to the great services which the commission had rendered to the department; yet in the earlier part of his speech he appeared to suggest that before the commission got under way the government had done almost everything that had been done. I do not know whether that is correct or not; but for the life of me I cannot see, from what the minister has given us to-day, what advancement is to come because of this report. There are, of course, certain small ameliorative projects. For example, we are to have training of girls for domestic service. That is fine. I do not quite know why it is that the dominion government should enter into that field-a domestic field if anything is a domestic field-but that is to be done. Again, we have the training of young people to a certain extent. They must not be apprentices, but they may receive some general training, especially along recreational lines.

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

Is my hon. friend opposed to that?

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

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

No. I think that

is excellent. But I suggest that there is no valid reason why the dominion government should enter into spheres of recreation and general training when it refuses to give grants for carrying on either apprenticeship or technical work.

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

If I might just correct my hon. friend, I do not think he is stating the matter quite as I put it this afternoon. Under the agreements we can assist in giving occupational training. We are doing so in a number of provinces. My point was that I did not think it was wise that the dominion government should enact legislation dealing with apprenticeship. That was the point.

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

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Quite so. Well, I am not particular whether the dominion government enacts that legislation or not, but what I do suggest is that if it is possible

through a cooperative effort to provide recreational centres in the provinces, it is surely possible through another cooperative effort to provide technical training for other young people in the provinces-

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

We are doing it.

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