January 23, 1939

CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

I have many of the Canadian Press reports upstairs; I particularly checked them, and they do not say that I said that the Canadian government should take over the whole burden of unemployment relief.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

I have simply quoted the

dispatch as I have it here.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

Is that the heading or the

body of the dispatch?

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

It is the lead of the dispatch.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

Never mind the lead;

quote what I said.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

This indicates what the

correspondent understood was in the mind of the leader of the opposition on that occasion. I see no reason to continue this digression. I shall be glad to pass over the dispatch to my hon. friend.

Another proposal was made by the leader of the opposition in the course of the Brandon by-election, to the effect that he believed that those who were on relief could be very usefully employed in constructing dustless highways in Canada. I have no complaint at all with respect to the suggestion of my hon. friend that it would be useful to construct dustless highways, but I am sure no hon. member believes that a project of that kind represents what might be termed appropriate and effective measures for curing unemployment in this country.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

Again I am sorry to interrupt, but we want the matter clear as we go along. I gave that as an illustration. I pointed out in that speech and in others that we had spent about $500,000,000, in fact more, on relief, without getting anything in return. I considered that instead of getting nothing in return that money should be used for public works of various kinds, and I gave dustless highways as an example.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

On that point I have not the Canadian Press but I have a report of tthe Brandon Sun, which has not been notorious for its support of the present government. That report says:

The aim of the national Conservative party is to use money now spent on direct relief for

such public works as dustless roads. Hon. R. J. Manion, the party leader, said to 1,700 people who gathered to hear him in the armouries Wednesday night. "It can be done and will be done by the party I'm leading when I get into power," said Doctor Manion.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

"Such public works." I

have no objection to that report. That is correct.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

Then the third suggestion made by my hon. friend was that there should be established in this country, and there would be if he came into power, a ministry of youth. I am not going to comment on that at any length. But I would simply put this to him. that you do not solve a problem simply by appointing a minister to deal with it.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

You ought to know.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

I know something about it, and I am going to speak of that a little later on. You might as well say you can bring about prosperity in this country by appointing a minister of prosperity. You do not deal with the youth problem by appointing a minister of youth. May I say further that I have a keen interest in the youth problem, as anyone would who occupied the position I have occupied for the last three years. But if it is a matter of youth training it must, to be done effectively, be done in cooperation with the various provincial governments which control education, which have effective control over factories and which at the present time control the employment services of this country. Or if it is intended rather to establish special works projects for youth I would remind my hon. friend that the federal government has a number of departments already organized for that purpose and if. for example, it appeared to be expedient to establish special projects for youth such as forest conservation, obviously it is desirable that such a project should be set up under the department that now has a forestry service rather than by an entirely new department which would duplicate services already in existence.

I am not going to labour that point now. No doubt we will have occasion to deal with it later, but so far as I have been able to discover those are the only three specific proposals made by the leader of the opposition in connection with this great problem of unemployment.

Now may I refer briefly to the paragraph in the speech from the throne which sets out precisely and modestly what actually has been done by this government in the way of

The Address-Mr. Rogers

introducing new measures to deal with various phases of that general problem. This is the paragraph:

The dominion government have taken active measures to stimulate private employment through the home improvement plan, the National Housing Act, and the Municipal Improvements Assistance Act. Under those measures certain local taxes have be assumed, and loans made to individuals, organizations and municipalities. The sales tax has been eliminated on important building materials. Special aid has been given to the mining industry by subventions, tax exemptions and improved transportation facilities. At the same time, direct employment has been increased through a substantial expansion of federal public works, and through assistance given to the provinces in the construction of highways, for land settlement, for special projects for farm employment and for forest conservation.

The leader of the opposition and others of his group who have taken part in this debate from time to time have accused this government of inaction. They may say it has been wrong action, but in the light of that paragraph and in the light of the results obtained under those policies they cannot accuse the government of inaction with respect to this problem. And the policies indicated here are entirely apart from contributions made by the dominion government to the various provinces, to assist those provinces in the distribution of direct relief to those in need.

After we came into office one of the first actions taken was to increase the grants in aid, which prevailed under the late administration, by seventy-five per cent in order to relieve the burden upon the municipalities, an object which my hon. friend now says is one which thoroughly deserves the support of this parliament. But the various policies indicated here are a reflection of the conviction of this government that if you are going to deal with unemployment through the provision of work it is wise first of all to try to expand private employment rather than public employment. In the first opportunity I had to speak in this house I stated my own firm conviction that regardless of what might have to be done in the way of expanding public employment it was the first duty of government in a democratic state to take measures to expand private employment. And we have done just that. I took that view because in other countries I had seen that, apart from the regrettable loss of morale that comes from idleness, there is another form of lack of morale which comes from the increasing dependence of large bodies of our people upon employment afforded by governments. So we took the position, in the open, that we would meet our obligations as we saw them

with respect to providing subsistence for those in need; that we would do what we felt reasonably could be done in the way of expanding public works if private employment would not do its part, but that above all we would take the measures that lay at our hands to stimulate employment in private industry, and we have done just that.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

What have you done to stimulate private industry?

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

If my hon. friend will permit me to make my own speech I hope to convince him very shortly in regard to what has been done in that respect.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Tell us.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

Yes, I propose to do that. When we came into office it was found that the natural outlets for our products in foreign countries had been lost, in some directions, and restricted, in some directions, by the policies of the late administration. We adopted policies of trade expansion which already have had their reflection in two reciprocal trade agreements with the United States, .and through those trade agreements we have had markets for our products which we did not have before.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

And destroyed private

industry in this country.

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

Under those agreements we have also brought about, as pointed out the other day by the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner), an increase in the employment afforded in this country; and it could not be otherwise. Even the leader of the opposition, during the course of his speech, pointed out that on the basis of unquestionable surveys made by competent authorities there was a correlation between a decline in international trade and a decline in employment, between an expansion in international trade and an expansion in employment; and no one can say that this government has shown inaction in seeking to find new markets for the products of this country. Does it lie in the mouths of hon. members opposite to accuse us of inaction in that respect when the reciprocity negotiations of 1935 were left in mid air because hon. gentlemen opposite were not prepared to go the last mile in order to get that trade agreement for this country?

But that is not all, Mr. Speaker. In the nature of things trade in this post-war world has been difficult to expand, but this government has never adopted a policy of defeatism with respect to possibilities in that direction. We realized that there were other industries in this country that also might be stimulated by government assistance, and we have given

The Address-Mr. Rogers

assistance to the mining industry, through tax remissions and the improvement of transportation facilities. We have given assistance to the building industry, as a result of which already over 850,000,000 has been expended under the National Housing Act and the home improvement plan. Will my hon. friends suggest that that has not been a useful means of stimulating employment in private industry? Not only that, but this employment in the building trades has been of distinct advantage in that it has been distributed right across Canada. For instance, it has afforded employment where it was most needed, in the great industrial provinces where the percentage of unemployment is at the highest. And with respect to the home improvement plan, there are moneys still available and loans are still being made, while the National Housing Act, as expanded last year, is providing new means of affording a still greater degree of private employment in the building industry.

Now as to public employment. Under the Municipal Improvements Assistance Act-I place this under public employment but in one sense it might have been placed under private employment because it is not concerned with projects which come under the control of the federal administration-which has been in existence only a few months, useful self-liquidating projects are now being constructed in many provinces. For example, one of these projects is being proceeded with in Vancouver, representing an outlay of $750,000. Another one in Vancouver will cost $390,000. There is one in Nanaimo to cost $200,000; one in Edmonton, $150,000; one in Lethbridge, $100,000. Five projects are being carried on in Calgary. In Saskatchewan the amounts run up to $628,000, while in New Brunswick they total $402,000. Can anyone suggest that the works represented by these measures have not had the result of offering more employment than would otherwise have been given?

So far as public employment is concerned I would point out that through dominion-provincial works and federal works of conservation and development we have succeeded year by year in diverting a very considerable amount of money into expenditures which are not only increasing immediate employment, but developing the assets of this country, particularly in our national parks and tourist industry, in a manner that ultimately will lead to a large expansion of employment.

The other day my hon. friend spoke of his difficulty in obtaining statistics on unemployment. I am not going to deal with this question at any great length, but I think it will be useful perhaps to clear up any confusion which may exist in his mind because

of the fact that the statistics with respect to unemployment and unemployed on relief come from different sources. First of all, as to the figure he obtained from the bureau of statistics with regard to the unemployment that exists in this country, I would simply remind him that it is only an estimate. If he had glanced over the return that came tc him he would have found the following description of this estimate:

These figures, prepared in the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, are, of course, only estimates. They are based upon-(1) the records of the trade union; (2) of the employment services of Canada; (3) the bureau's index of employment in firms; and (4) the population trend.

May I point out this further fact to all members of the house? Those figures were given out even before the onset of the present depression. I doubt if there is any other country where there is as large a proportion of seasonal employment as there is in Canada. Seasonal unemployment, which does not of necessity mean dependence upon the state, is included in the figures given by the bureau of statistics. I do not think it is necessary to say more in confirmation of that statement than to say that in January, 1930, before the onset of the depression, figures similar to those given the other day by the hon. gentleman showed an estimate of 297,000 wage earners unemployed. May I remind the house that at that time no one had suggested that a situation had arisen which called for the distribution of direct relief by this country. We may take it for granted then that this estimate of unemployed includes a very considerable number of those who could be described as seasonal unemployed.

Now, as to registration. I agree with my hon. friend that it would be extremely useful if we could have before us at all times an accurate registration of the unemployed. This country is not the only one in which this problem has arisen. I know of no country with which we are in active contact which has that kind of accurate representation of the unemployed from month to month. I suppose Great Britain comes closest to it. They have it because they have a system of unemployment insurance and labour exchanges which permits accurate returns from month to month with respect to insurable groups. But the British figures are confined to insurable groups in so far as they are actual registrations rather than estimates.

It may be recalled by some hon. members that about a year ago a demand arose in the United States for a registration of the unemployed, and congress voted an appropria-

The Address-Mr. Rogers

tion of $5,000,000 for that purpose. The president called in a very prominent industrialist -if I remember correctly it was the president of the American Rolling Mills-and asked him if he would head a commission to undertake what might be termed an accurate census of the unemployed. They set up an effective organization through the post office and cards were sent out to every person^ for whom an address could be obtained. When the returns came in, the head of the commission said that, they were entirely unsatisfactory in so far as representing the actual situation was concerned. Indeed I have a statement here to the effect that the voluntary registrations were liable to an error of some thirty per cent; that is, thirty per cent of the unemployed did not bother to register, and naturally this factor of error would affect appreciably the result obtained.

The question of the registration of the unemployed as distinct from those on relief was considered by the national employment commission as one of its first tasks. They recommended that instead of setting out in this extremely uncertain way to register the unemployed, it would be preferable that we should obtain our statistics from those who are actually on relief. These people would be registered by compulsion, if you will. The registration which has been in existence for the past two years is the registration recommended by the national employment commission as being the most practical and, all things considered, as the most useful to the government. I would say to my hon. friend that that registration is a registration of those on relief. I shall be glad to give my hon. friend a copy of the form sent out from Ottawa for distribution to relief recipients in all municipalities in all provinces.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

Is there not one province to which they are not sent?

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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

All provinces.

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January 23, 1939