April 4, 1938

CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

What I want the minister to understand is that to-day the situation has become almost impossible, and that nothing he has mentioned this afternoon or this evening as far as I can recall would give us the faintest glimmer of hope that this government is going to assist in that situation. That is what I want to bring out. Further I ask what the unemployed are to do under those circumstances. Are they to starve? Are we to wait until there are riots? That has happened in some cases in the past. Let no one say here that I am advocating riots, but I do urge that sometimes the dominion government has waited until riots occurred before it paid sufficient attention to the situation which existed.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
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LIB

Vincent Dupuis

Liberal

Mr. DUPUIS:

That is a nice suggestion

to put in the minds of the people.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Just a moment; a little later I have a suggestion to advance. But, first, what are the minister's suggestions? One is that we should encourage the tourist trade; at least that is the suggestion which the minister takes over from the commission. Further, the commission suggests that we could sell articles to tourists at reduced rates. Well, now, is that to be one of the important parts of the relief program, to bring about the solution of the unemployment problem in this country; to encourage tourists and sell things to them? I suppose if we build enough highways, we could place all the unemployed along them and set them to work selling trinkets to the tourists; probably the trinkets would be made in Japan, but of course they would be made to look, like Indian souvenirs. Really, I do ask the minister whether he is serious in telling us that for the solution of these things we have to depend upon the development of the tourist traffic. Are we to be employed largely in selling little things to tourists; are we to become a nation of wayside shopkeepers and hotelkeepers? Is that our ambition for this country? Surely the minister has not made much of a case for the policy of the government in developing the industries of the country, developing its natural resources and putting the Dominion of Canada on a self-reliant basis.

A moment ago an hon. member asked for a suggestion. I offer this, as a bare suggestion : The minister himself has emphasized the advisability of more housing. I think that is quite correct. It serves two purposes: It provides for the needs of the people-

and we have need for more housing from coast to coast-further, it is generally conceded that almost immediately a large number of mechanics are employed. There is no one policy which would stimulate general activity more than increased activity in the building trade.

The commission has given some consideration to the low-rent housing scheme. I urge the government to consider it more carefully. The minister was very cautious in his statement; he said some such scheme was being considered. But wie want something more than long term "consideration." We have had a commission, and we have heard its advice. Many of us would now like to have action! What the people want is not more commissions, more bureaux, more research; what they want, above all, is work,-work! And the government must give that work.

Some one may say: Why do the people not look out for their own jobs? We grew up in a pioneering country, where it was possible for a man to find a job for himself. But to-day I believe that with the exception of the farming industry about 85 per cent of all people who work for a living are working for somebody else.

Who must provide work? The people who have money say they cannot invest their money in productive enterprises so as to bring in a profit; so they are investing in bonds, if they can, or their money is lying idle. Under these circumstances it seems to me the government will have to step in and provide for the housing of the people, or set up other schemes of a similar kind.

The minister referred to the SI5.000.000. the amount which I believe was put into the home improvement plan last year by the government. But that plan touched only the middle-class people; it did not touch the people who most needed homes. It did not provide for the clearance of slums which have existed for twenty-five years in Montreal, in Saint John, in Toronto-in almost all our cities. I would suggest that the government could not do better than place an estimate before the house for something like 8100,000.000 for slum clearance, and the provision of low rent housing. Someone laughs! What is wrong with that? If last year we could provide

836,000,000 for national defence and $34,000,000 this year-some of it to be spent on useless armouries-I wonder why we cannot provide 8100,000,000 to house our people and to provide work for the unemployed.

When I think of the enormous sums which have been spent in Canada for relief pur-

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poses, just thrown away, as it were, I wonder why we could not have some return! Somebody may ask: Where shall we find the money? I think it would be comparatively easy to find the money. Half that amount could be easily obtained through added income tax on incomes in the higher brackets. The minister says: Let the people tax themselves still further. I suggest that we impose a tax which would bear more heavily on those people best able to pay. And if the government do not wish to provide the other

S50,000,000 in this way, then I would suggest that they might provide it by issuing new money.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

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

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I hear hon. members to my left in the social credit group agreeing with that. This is one instance in which I think new money might be issued to advantage. It would not bring about inflation, so far as I can determine, and so far as I can learn from consultation with people who know more than I do about financial matters. We have taken such action before in this house, and there is no reason why we cannot do so again. A program of that kind could be carried out without constitutional changes. That is one practical suggestion I would offer.

I quite agree with the minister that we must have a broad and comprehensive program. No one measure will accomplish the complete results. I have mentioned housing because in Canada there have been the strongest representations urging the necessity of a housing scheme. On the other hand, we still have a vast amount of unemployment which, at least in part, could be taken care of by a scheme of this kind. In turn, as the minister has pointed out, it would stimulate general activity across the country.

In closing, I wish to emphasize that, after reading patiently the report, and listening to the minister, it does seem to me that we have been given nothing which would seem to bring about any immediate solution of this pressing problem-certainly nothing that would meet the needs of the people who have been suffering throughout these years.

The minister talked about improved morale; but I can take him to the welfare agencies in this city, or, indeed of any of our cities, and the welfare workers will tell him that to-day morale is at a very low ebb. I suggest that the sums which might be involved in carrying out extensive employment schemes are very small, compared with the good which might be accomplished in the national interest of Canada.

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CON

James Earl Lawson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. J. EARL LAWSON (York South):

To an audience less informed than members of the House of Commons, an historic review of the different measures taken to cope with the unemployment problem, such as was given by the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers) this afternoon in the first hour of his address, would indeed have been intensely interesting. He intimated .the steps which had been taken by a previous government and by the present government to meet the problem. I have no desire to express commendation of one government or condemnation of the other.

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LIB-PRO

Joseph Thorarinn Thorson

Liberal Progressive

Mr. THORSON:

You are in the reconfederation cabinet.

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CON

James Earl Lawson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LAWSON:

That is .the third time I have heard that, but I have not yet found out what it is.

To my mind the unemployment problem far transcends any question of party politics or political controversy. Let us say that the camps to which the minister referred were a temporary expedient to meet the needs of a particular time, and let us say that the employment commission, which has functioned, has collected some valuable data and has presented in its report some better ideas respecting the classification of unemployed and unemployables than we had before. But the question still remains: If every recommendation made by the employment commission was implemented by the present government, which apparently it is not going to do, we would still have an unemployment problem. I do not think the minister would suggest seriously to this committee that the implementation of those recommendations would prove a solution of our problem. As I said a moment ago, let us take it for granted that they gave us some valuable data, but I am sometimes doubtful of that.

This afternoon the minister gave some figures in connection with the unemployed. It was pointed out by him, I believe as a result of a question asked, that the figures referred only to the unemployed on relief. Recently I had brought to my attention an instance of how inaccurate such figures may be. The municipality of the township of York is in the constituency which I have the honour to represent. According to the latest figures there are supposed to be 750 young people between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one who are unemployed in that particular municipality which has a population of something less than 700,000. There happens to be a very active youth movement in that municipality, as the minister knows, composed of several youth organizations. A little while ago they undertook to make a canvass of

Relief and Agricultural Distress

every house ia the municipality. Up to last week their voluntary job was two-thirds finished; but their census showed that instead of 750, there were 2,150 young people between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one years in that one municipality who were seeking employment.

I regret that the minister has not intimated that the bill to be founded upon this resolution will contain definite provisions for an effort, other than those which have been made, to meet the problem of unemployment. The minister dealt at some length with the home improvement plan and what it had accomplished. I would be the last to suggest that it has not provided some impetus and stimulus to and caused, considerable expenditure in the building industry; but may I say to the minister I am convinced that so far as the promoting of the building industiy in this country is concerned, it has but scratched the surface. The great impediment to progress in the building industry, as I see it, is the tremendous burden of municipal taxation which is now placed upon property. Until you 'relieve that burden you will not make any real progress in our building industry.

Some one will say that the municipality is a creature of the province; that this is a matter within the jurisdiction of the province, but it seems to me that there is a material and substantial contribution which the government of the Dominion of Canada could make to the solution of this problem. They should do that which almost everyone admits now should be done, namely, take off the municipalities and the provinces the burden of maintenance of relief of the unemployed.

I suggest that this is a concrete suggestion which will have two results. First, it would ease the burden of municipal taxation now upon the home owners and farmers in this country by eliminating that proportion of taxes which is now assessed against them by reason of the direct relief contribution being made by the municipalities. It will provide relief to those provinces which are unable to pay their way as they go and to which we are already advancing money to meet their share of the cost of unemployment relief. It will be noticed that I am distinguishing the unemployed from the unemployables. I say that by doing this you will make a great contribution, both to the stimulation of building and to relieving the burden of taxation upon those provinces and municipalities which are now in difficulties.

At one point in his speech the Minister of Labour announced that for two years the government had had a policy leading to the development of natural resources so as to secure further income for the future and thus provide more employment, rather than a program of artificial public works. By artificial public works I mean public works carried on for the purpose of providing employment. I was hopeful that before he had finished his remarks he would have told us something of wdiat the government proposed to do in that regard. However, his remarks amounted to nothing more than the old, old, oft repeated policy of my friends in the Liberal party- trade, trade and the extension of trade.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
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LIB

Vincent Dupuis

Liberal

Mr. DUPUIS:

That is a nice song.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
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CON

James Earl Lawson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LAWSON:

My hon. friend is a good

songster and I would like to hear him sing it.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

He is a little off key.

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CON

James Earl Lawson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LAWSON:

I realize that there will be always a division of opinion in this country as to the extent to which we benefit by trade agreements which throw our export and import trade out of balance. I am not going to attempt to argue at any length that age-old question of the benefits of expanding trade irrespective of the effect it may have upon our secondary industries as against the policy of protection for industry and equal opportunity for Canadians in their own market. However, I want to point out that nothing can be more misleading or less effective in argument than the mere recitation, such as the minister gave this afternoon, of increasing exports year after year, when one fails to give side by side with those figures the increasing imports or increasing world trade.

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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. MARTIN:

They both go together.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
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CON

James Earl Lawson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LAWSON:

Of course they go together; they are inseparable. I can readily understand the argument by which one advances an increase of exports over imports as tending to show that a trade agreement is beneficial. I can readily understand the argument that an increase in imports may be beneficial if we are a creditor country and the imports come from a debtor country. Such an increase would indicate that at least we are getting payment of our debts. But to merely cite increases in exports without relation to the other factors which I have mentioned, is no evidence or proof of benefit to this country.

Had I anticipated speaking on this resolution I would have obtained certain figures to present to the minister. I am confident that if I had got them from the bureau of statistics

Relief and Agricultural Distress

they would have illustrated clearly the fallacy of stating merely an increase in exports as an argument in support of what the minister was saying. I remember in 1933 or 1934 when I spoke during the budget debate I advanced an argument which may not have been accepted by many but which I still think is sound. I took the world trade figures in 1929, and in the year in which I was speaking, and showed that whereas world trade had decreased 68 per cent and that of our great neighbour to the south 65 per cent, nevertheless in Canada, under the policies of protection inaugurated by the Conservative government then in power, our trade had decreased only 60 per cent, and I suggest to my hon. friend that if he would take the percentage of increase in world trade to-day over the world trade when the government of which he is a member came into power, and then compare with that Canada's increase in trade, he would find, I am confident, that these trade agreements to which he pins his hope for solving the unemployment problem in the future have not resulted in the benefits which he would lead us to believe.

Therefore, Mr. Chairman, I hope that when we have the bill before us it will contain some more concrete suggestion for a contribution to the solution of the problem of unemployment in this country than was indicated by the minister this afternoon, and I suggest for his very serious consideration that if he desires to bring about a great increase in the building industry-and I agree with him that a substantial increase in the building industry would make a greater contribution to the solution of unemployment than anything else I can think of at the moment-then this government must lead the way in taking off the home owner and real estate owner some of the burden of taxation which is now imposed upon them.

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CON

William Allen Walsh

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. W. A. WALSH (Mount Royal):

Mr. Chairman, speaking to the resolution before us, I notice that it is worded:

Resolved, that it is expedient to bring in a measure to provide assistance-

I would suggest that it has been expedient to do that for over two years, and that the thought of the government in considering the present time as expedient is a very long overdue thought.

As we all remember, this government came into office after having promised the people of Canada they would do what they suggested the previous government had not done, after having promised the people that they were the only party which could bring about

an alleviation of the distress caused by unemployment because of their very close association with the then provincial governments in this country. Now, after two and a half years of office they at last suggest that it is expedient that something should be done.

I am sorry to have missed the introductory remarks of the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers); but as I listened to him during the early part of this evening I was almost reminded of the days I spent in the lecture theatre, and was almost ready to commend him for his academic style of delivery and for the academic words of wisdom to which he gave utterance. Unfortunately, however, the problem with which we are dealing cannot be solved by academic utterances or by academically well-turned phrases.

I also notice that the resolution reads that it is expedient to bring in a measure to provide assistance "towards the alleviation of unemployment and agricultural distress." I would suggest that unemployment and agricultural distress should not be grouped together as they have been in this resolution. I assume that agricultural distress refers to the conditions which prevail and have prevailed for some time in western Canada; but I do not think it is fair to those farmers who are suffering through no fault of their own, not because of any economic ills that have come to the world and to Canada in common with other nations, but merely through an act of providence, through the workings of nature, to place those farmers who are suffering just as intensely as the unemployed in our cities and towns in the same category with them. I think the two groups should be kept separate and distinct, and those who are suffering agricultural distress should be treated separately and distinctly from those who are unemployed from other causes than have brought about the unfortunate conditions which prevail in that western country. Judging by the utterances of last year, I thought that this year we would see those suffering from agricultural distress treated separately from the rank and file of the unemployed; that we would have separate figures in respect to them and separate legislation to deal with them at this present session. Unfortunately the government has not seen its way clear to bring in legislation of that nature, and so we must deal with the situation as we find it.

Listening to the minister this evening, I did not hear anything which would lead us to believe that any concrete measures will be

Relief and Agricultural Distress

brought before the house to deal with unemployment in any definite way. I feel reasonably certain that if the unemployed had listened to the Minister of Labour this afternoon and this evening, and then had supplemented what they had heard by a careful reading of the report of the national employment commission, they would have gone away from this house very little comforted and with very little hope for the immediate future. As they pick up their paper to-morrow morning or to-morrow afternoon and read the utterances of the minister representing this government, I cannot see that they are going to catch that ray of hope they would naturally expect as a result of two and a half years' work on the part of such an important commission, whose labours they hoped would result in something more fruitful, which would be implemented by the government at present holding office.

The minister in the course of his remarks pictured in glowing terms the recovery that had been made by Canada, in more glowing terms, I think, than actual conditions at the present time warrant. I am not a pessimist, but in the present situation I for one cannot assume such an optimistic tone and outlook as the minister assumed in his remarks to-day. I feed absolutely certain that if we compare the recovery figures for Canada, to which the minister referred from time to time, with the recovery figures of other nations of the world, and with the figures for the world at large, we should find that Canada had made no more rapid strides on the road to recovery than many other countries of the world or, indeed, than the average country of the world.

As someone speaking in this debate has pointed out, the minister has made many suggestions, but not many suggestions of what could actually be done. He has pointed to what it would be impossible to do under present circumstances and conditions, but he has not been at all definite in showing the way to those who are looking for a lead in this connection.

When, some two years ago, I first spoke on a similar measure, I suggested that the minister was ill-advised in burdening this country with the expense of a commission to solve unemployment. I suggested that what he hoped to do through the efforts of such a commission could very well be done with a little reorganization within his own department, at far less expense and with much greater expedition than has been the case as a result of the appointment of this commission. I do not wish to say anything derogatory of the commission. They have done a nice piece

of work; they have gathered together facts and statistics and made accessible material which was perhaps not previously available, but this could have been done by officials of the department with probably as much competence and a great deal more quickly than it has been done by the national employment commission. The result of the appointment of that .body is that for over two years a practical solution of the problem of unemployment in this country has been delayed. When we get the report we find, blocking the way to dealing properly with the problem, a reference to another commission. One commission prevents anything from being done as a result of the report of another commission for which we have been waiting some two years. Evidently the present government have little or no intention of effectively dealing with the unemployment situation. What the government is doing is passing the question from one commission to another, hoping that, during the lapse of time between the reception of these reports and the giving effect to any recommendations they may have to make, world conditions will improve and reflect themselves in Canada; then this government will make an effort to persuade the people that they are responsible for an improvement which came about naturally in process of time.

These commissions entail a tremendous expense to the Canadian people. I hope during the course of this parliament to place on record in Hansard a complete list of the commissions that have been appointed, with their expensive and high strutting counsel, so that the people will know what a commission form of government really costs in the way of taxation, and what a so-called Liberal government is doing in the way of governing this country, not as a government but through the instrumentality of commissions, one appointed after another.

There is another point to which I wish to take exception. This lengthy report, containing as has been pointed out, somewhat laboured phrases and sentences, was tabled in the house on Friday; yet members are asked to give consideration to it on Monday. I ask the Minister of Labour, who, like myself, has been a teacher

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
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?

An hon. MEMBER:

A professor.

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CON

William Allen Walsh

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WALSH:

A professor, if he prefers the more dignified term to the word " teacher."

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

I am quite satisfied with

" teacher."

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CON

William Allen Walsh

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WALSH:

I think he, like myself, is

quite satisfied with the word I used. We would not suggest, to even a fourth year

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honour class in a university, to take a report of that nature and over the weekend read and digest it and be prepared to come back on Monday and discuss it in class. But here the minister has tabled a lengthy and important report on Friday and asks consideration for it on Monday, hoping that in the meantime hon. members, with our limited mentality as compared with fourth year honour students, will be able to give it real and genuine consideration.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

If my hon. friend will permit me, there are fifty pages in the report itself apart from the appendix. I would not have considered it too heavy an assignment over a weekend.

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April 4, 1938