The house resumed from Thursday, April 28, consideration in committee of Bill No. 105, to assist in the alleviation of unemployment and agricultural distress-Mr. Rogers- Mr. Sanderson in the chair.
On section 1-Short title.
Hon. NORMAN McL. ROGERS (Minister of Labour): Mr. Chairman, before the committee proceeds further with the bill I should like to refer to certain statements made last night by the lion, member for Temiseouata. In the interval I have had an opportunity of investigating the charge made that Mr. Purvis, as chairman of the national employment commission, had obtained certain information which would be of value to him in his private business associations. That investigation has confirmed the opinion I expressed last night, that the information so obtained was used solely for public purposes. Late in 1936 and early in 1937 a form was sent out under the authority of the national employment commission to the larger employers throughout Canada. The form stated its purpose to be to secure data deemed useful in studying employment and unemployment. to be supplementary to the commission's studies along other lines, such as the registration of direct relief recipients. That form was prepared by the members and officers of the commission. At the close of 1937 a report was issued embodying the information secured from the replies received. This report was issued and was tabled as a matter of fact in this house under the title of Report on Phases of Employment Conditions in Canadian Industry.
In no sense was it the thought or intention of the commission to look into the circumstances of individual firms; in fact an undertaking was given on the form itself to the effect that nothing of that nature would be done. This undertaking read as follows:
In so far a's the individual firm is concerned this reply will be treated as absolutely confidential. Information taken from the forms will be made public only in a general way: in no case will publicity be given to the individual return nor will it be available to any other branch of government.
That promise was most scrupulously carried out.
The work of receiving the forms and of collecting the data which they contained was under the direction of V. C. Phelan, director of registration, who was serving as an officer of the commission at the time. Neither the chairman nor any member of the commission ever asked for any one of the individual returns and none was shown to them. In order to discharge the project effectively it was unnecessary for the commission even to see these individual returns, as the purpose had been to secure data by classes, and when the data was ready in that form it was carefully considered by the commissioners.
A copy of the published report was sent to each employer who had submitted a return and no one has forwarded an objection to the use made of the information which he supplied. On the other hand, the commission was in receipt of statements from some employers to the effect that they considered the facts brought to light to be of value and that they appreciated receiving the report.
To sum up: the fact is that no one has at any time had possession of or been privileged to read the individual returns except the staff engaged in the statistical compilation, and steps were taken to see that the undertaking made to reporting firms was scrupulously regarded. It is a matter of opinion whether the individual employer's return in this case would be of assistance to a business competitor, as the information sought did not deal with the financial set-up or the producing, sales or commercial policies of firms.
I should just like to say in conclusion, repeating what I said last night, that Mr. Purvis as chairman, and Mr. Tom Moore as vice chairman, and all the members of the commission, approached their task as public-spirited citizens with a keen sense of responsibility, and I regret exceedingly that the hon. member has seen fit to make accusations against public servants who have been faithful and conscientious in the performance of their duties.