April 4, 1938

CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

-and to do it on a larger scale. But we are constantly up against this: It seems to me-and I do not want to be unfair-that when the government does not want to do a thing, immediately this old constitutional question is trotted out.

I protest decidedly against the delay involved in the government doing precious little, awaiting the report of a commission. Take the case of the textile commission to which the leader of the opposition referred. It was appointed nearly two and a half years ago. Why? Because nearly a thousand men were thrown out of work in Sherbrooke; because the town council of Sherbrooke had called an emergency meeting to consider the situation. We have to wait for two years and a half before we are told that there was no need whatever of a lay-off at that time. And we did not get that information until last week.

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

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

And it cost $174,000.

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

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

It cost $174,000, and we did not get it for two and a half years. That is an absurd way of doing public business. When, as in this case, a commission reports and we are told that we cannot implement its report until yet another commission reports, it is a still more absurd way of doing business. In the meantime the people suffer. The hungry sheep look up and are not fed. That is the trouble. I came across in my old files only a few days ago a plea from certain miners of Cape Breton, nearly two thousand of them, who at that time were out of work; a miner wrote in to me:

The stomachs of the men, women and children demand prompt action, and I thought the government might help.

Deluded man! He "thought the government might help." Oh, no. We must appoint a royal commission, and a second royal commission, and then seek some great changes in the constitution. "I thought the government might help." I would say, "deluded people," generally, and I am not putting it in an exaggerated form when I suggest that if we do not improve our ways democracy itself will show itself bankrupt. I am not one who wants a dictatorship, of either communism or fascism, but I say that they haw come in different countries because democracy has

Relief and Agricultural Distress

not been tried or has failed, and unless we can deal in a much more practical way than we are doing with the pressing problems that face us in Canada, democracy is bound to fail in this country as it has failed in some others.

I wish to point out some of the actual situations that prevail. I shall cite first the conditions in my own city of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba. It is not very often that in this house I have set forth specifically matters affecting my own city or my own province; I have tried to deal more largely with general questions. But I make no apology for taking up this question, because to-day our city is almost bankrupt. They are wondering whether or not they can draw on their sinking funds in order to give relief to the people and keep the schools open. The banks tell them that they are not to draw on their sinking funds, and I suppose, from the standpoint of sound finance, that is quite proper. They are trying to cut down on their school expenditures, and the school board says they must not do that because surely the children should not be made to carry the load. They are trying to cut down on their ordinary services all along the line; they are right up against it; that is shown clearly in the newspapers of the last few days. Now, as I have listened for three hours to the Minister of Labour as he has been expounding this report which it has taken nearly two years to prepare, I have been wondering what help there is for my city of Winnipeg and for the large numbers of people who are there unemployed. Let me read a passage or two from the Bank of Canada report. I think it is worth while doing this. I quote:

But when the province suffered from six consecutive years in which the net value of its production was little more than half of that of the preceding period, discouragement and strain throughout the province were inevitable.

And again:

The initial proposal was for a one per cent income tax and a sales tax, but the sales tax proposal was dropped and the income tax raised to two per cent, making it the heaviest income tax in North America in relation to small incomes.

On the side of expenditure, further cuts were made in highway maintenance, education, and other items, reducing total ordinary expenditures for the year 1933-34, in spite of another increase in debt charges.. Capital expenditures ceased entirely.

Again, at page 22:

We believe that during most of the period under review, and specifically during the last five years, the government of the province of Manitoba has made strong and commendable

efforts to keep its budget balanced, and avoid unnecessary increases in debt, by imposing taxation on a scale at least as high as that of any other province in Canada, and by restricting expenditures as far as it was possible to go without curtailing services to an extent which would not have been in the public interest.

What more can we do in that province? Again:

Notwithstanding this advantage and the efforts of its government, which, as we have indicated, have been very considerable, the province is either not in a position to carry on, or is able to do so with assurance for no more than a short period, unless some unexpected favourable factor should appear.

I ask the minister, What does he propose to do in that contingency? Here is the Bank of Canada making its report in which it says that the province is not in a position to carry on, or is able to do so with assurance for no more than a short period unless some unexpected favourable factor should appear.

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

Was that report prepared before or after the crop season of last year?

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

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Before. The Bank of Canada's report far the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan was made public on February 15, 1937; March 15, 1937; and April 7, 1937, respectively.

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

There has been some improvement since then.

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

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Yes; but one crop does not alter the situation any more than one swallow makes a summer. Let me give two other quotations, and I do so because I do not believe the members from the eastern and central provinces realize yet the situation in the drought area or the condition of the people in the industrial centres of the west. I quote from page 16:

Some 84 per cent of all direct relief expenditures in the province have had to be made in Winnipeg and suburbs; including relief works expenditures the proportion is 74 per cent. Although Winnipeg's net debt was relatively low, the major portion of the provincial tax revenues were derived from the city, and there was little margin for increasing municipal revenues. Consequently, greater Winnipeg was early forced to rely on the province for assistance in meeting its share of relief costs, and by the end of the fiscal year 1936 had borrowed $3,500,000, or 95 per cent of total municipal borrowings from the province, excluding the drought area.

One other quotation:

Of the $24,000,000 spent or loaned for relief purposes by the province, the dominion will have advanced $19,000,000 and will have paid an additional $20,000,000 for its own share, making with the municipalities' $9,000,000 a grand total of $53,000,000 relief expenditures by all agencies.

Relief and Agricultural Distress

When we have figures like these it is high time that we gave a little more attention not only to relief on a much greater scale than has hitherto been contemplated but also to the question behind relief, of how we can provide against unemployment.

I wish to deal with one or two points with reference to the constitutional question, and I turn to Manitoba's case as presented recently to the Rowell commission. I propose to quote from page 41. May I say that we cannot wait until the Rowell commission reports before we deal with these problems. I am taking the case as submitted to that commission because it contains figures which I assume will be accepted by the government. Under the heading "Amendment of the Constitution," there appears the following:

It may be said from the above that the original conception and the present position of the constitution of Canada are poles apart. It has been interpreted in a way which it can safely be said would have caused consternation in the minds of those who framed it.

It will be apparent from the decided cases in such matters of the grayest national importance as unemployment insurance, weekly rest, minimum wages, hours of labour and other great social services, that we in Canada are practically at an impasse. The dominion, according to the decisions referred to above, has not the power to pass legislation in relation to such matters. The provinces alone have the power to pass such legislation, but they cannot in practice deal with such matters satisfactorily, as from their nature only national action in regard thereto can really be effective. In addition, to repeat what has already been emphasized, the provinces have not at present the powers of taxation necessary to meet the outlay for said matters and matters of similar import.

Let me quote one short paragraph further down:

Hence one is led to the irresistible conclusion that our constitution as it stands at present has ceased to be an effective instrument of government. It should be amended so that the defects which have been pointed out can be removed, and so that it will meet the needs of to-day and will cease to be an obstacle to social progress and national development.

The minister has referred to constitutional difficulties, and I simply give this extract from the case as presented to the commission to show its practical bearings. But what does the minister propose to do? In theory he is very much opposed to grants in aid, and possibly that is correct from the purely theoretical standpoint. But what are we going to do in circumstances such as these? Are we going to wait another two years until the Rowell commission reports, when the city is on the verge of bankruptcy, and the people, if the city cannot give relief, will be faced with actual starvation? Is there nothing that

can be done about the matter? I do not think we can simply allow the government to give us general and vague phrases and go on for one year more.

Last year the situation was bad enough. Everything reported by the Bank of Canada existed then, but the government had to hurry over to the coronation and participate in the ceremonies there; that was infinitely more important than caring for the people here! Therefore nothing was done last year; and now when this year we ask for some action, we are told that we must wait until some other commission reports or until all the provinces are agreed to constitutional changes. If some of the provinces are satisfied with the existing situation, very well; but some of us have to .take action and to do so in the not too distant future. I have always done my best to frown upon anything like the advocacy of secession, but I say that people are being driven to despair by the situation that prevails. Secession would be a political move to try to solve an economic difficulty, and I do not think it would be successful in itself. But I urge that something must be done if we are to have that unity which the minister has pleaded for to-night. That unity must mean that the sections of the community which are in difficulties can have their difficulties met promptly and adequately.

I should like to give just one quotation from another section of this brief, dealing with federal monetary policy. I am afraid, however, that in making my notes this particular passage was not brought down to my desk. I am sorry; I should like to have quoted it. It appears on page 1 of part 3. Perhaps some other time I shall take occasion to read this quotation. Undoubtedly that monetary policy has borne very heavily upon the people of the west. They had to sell abroad, and the exchange relationship that existed worked a very great hardship on the western people. Further than that, one should remember the tariff policy, into which I shall not enter at this time; and still further than that, the difficult position of the school districts, even in Manitoba. To-day we heard a plea for the school districts of Saskatchewan and Alberta, but there are large numbers of rural schools in Manitoba in a serious predicament. Are we going to allow the education of our children in this country to be subordinated to other and lesser considerations?

What is the government prepared to do? Under the restrictions imposed by their charters and by the British North America Act the municipalities and some of the provinces are

Relief and Agricultural Distress

unable to provide for the unemployed. In the circumstances what are we going to do? That is the question I should like to ask the government. Let me repeat that my own city at the moment is almost on the verge of bankruptcy. It is in a very difficult position. It does not know which way to turn. The province is in a difficult situation. It does not know which way to turn. What is to be done to meet the situation?

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

Vincent Dupuis

Liberal

Mr. DUPUIS:

Has the hon. member a suggestion to make to the committee?

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

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

If the minister has no suggestion in all the time he has considered the problem, I do not think the hon. member can expect me to make one at the moment.

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

Will my hon. friend permit me to offer just a brief observation? The dominion government has not been at any time indifferent to the position of Manitoba or any other western province. I think if the hon. gentleman looks back over the record, he will acknowledge that. He has referred particularly to the city of Winhipeg. I am aware that the city of Winnipeg has been in a difficult position. Equally, other municipalities have been in a difficult position; but, as I have had occasion to point out before, there are two ways of meeting the situation. One is for the municipality to receive powers of taxation other than levies upon real estate. I believe an attempt was made in the case of Winnipeg to secure from the provincial legislature additional powers of taxation, but that attempt was only partly successful. I am quite sure that when my hon. friend speaks of the municipality being bankrupt, he does not mean that the people of that municipality are in a bankrupt condition; for the problem rests in part upon the relation between provincial and municipal finance. I do not suggest that as the whole story; but I think if he is putting a position before us, he should not forget that the city of Winnipeg did make certain proposals to the provincial legislature, and that those were only partly met.

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

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I am not very much impressed by what the minister has said. I do not say that everybody in Winnipeg is bankrupt, but I do say that from the statement made by the Bank of Canada the minister can understand that we are in a pretty bad way in that city. Already we have taxed ourselves to the limit. I cannot see how most people can do anything further. I referred previously to the real estate tax,

which has been terrifically heavy, so that many houses have had to be tom down because the owners could not afford to maintain them.

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

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

And they told the legislature they could not carry on.

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

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Yes. You reach a certain point and you cannot go any further. What is to be done? And what are the unemployed to do? Are they to be allowed to starve?

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

There has never been any suggestion of that.

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

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

There is no suggestion of it; but if you read the Winnipeg papers for the last few days, you will realize the position of that city. There is no suggestion, the minister says; but what is your alternative? We have cut down our services to a point beyond which it is not in the public interest to cut further.

This government cannot escape responsibility for that situation. My colleague suggests that the city increased its relief debt by $10,000,000 in seven years. It is a serious situation. The minister made an eloquent appeal for unity; he pleaded that the eastern part of the country would realize what the west had done in the past. Well, the west is up against it to-day, and about all the minister can say is, "Why don't you tax yourselves a little more heavily?"

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

No; my hon. friend is certainly misrepresenting what I said.

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

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I do not want to do that.

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

We have been dealing with the western provinces from the very beginning on the basis of grants in aid, to assist them in dealing with the unemployment situation. Not only that; but in the city of Winnipeg, as my hon. friend is aware, the late administration as well as this government made extraordinary provision in connection with the establishment of a sewage disposal plant. The expenditure there ran very close to $4,000,000, and the dominion government either advanced or loaned the money to the province and municipality. I do want the hon. gentleman to understand that we have not been indifferent to the situation in Winnipeg.

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

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

No; the government may not have been indifferent to it, but I do want-

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

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

Then why not state what

has been done?

Relief and Agricultural Distress

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

April 4, 1938