Hon. NORMAN McL. ROGERS (Minister of Labour) moved that the house go into committee to consider the following proposed resolution:
That it is expedient to bring in a measure to provide assistance in the alleviation of unemployment and agricultural distress and for
such purpose to authorize the execution of undertakings in the general interest of Canada and requisite for the purposes of the act, out of moneys appropriated by parliament, and also to provide financial assistance to the provinces by way of loan, advance or guarantee, out of unappropriated moneys in the consolidated revenue fund, and for the appointment of necessary officers, clerks and employees.
He said: We listened a few moments ago to a speech by the hon. member for St. Antoine-Westmount (Mr. White) which will be remembered and treasured by all who heard it. As one of the younger members of the House of Commons I should like to extend my own good wishes and to express the hope that the hon. member may enjoy long years of happiness and usefulness to this country. His presence here has been a benediction, and the example of his public life an inspiration to all of us.
In other years when a resolution similar to this has been before the house I have presented a brief survey of the relief situation resulting from unemployment and agricultural distress, and a more detailed statement of the results obtained under the various measures adopted by the government to deal with unemployment in its various aspects. I intend to follow the same course to-day. When the legislation which will follow the adoption of this resolution is presented a little later, there will be further opportunity to answer questions and provide additional information on questions of policy and administration.
The first part of my task is simplified by the fact that during the debate on the address in reply to the speech from the throne I dealt at some length with the statistics of relief and unemployment, and placed upon the record a number of tables based upon the national registration of relief recipients which was commenced under the national employment commission in September, 1936. Since that debate closed, figures have become available for later months, and I intend to place those figures before the house.
Before presenting a statistical survey of the relief situation, however, I want to take strong objection at this time to certain glaring distortions of the true position which have appeared from time to time in some of our newspapers and periodicals. I do so because I believe that responsibility and freedom go hand in hand; and freedom of the press becomes an empty phrase unless it is directed to the service of truth and the destruction of error. So far as relief and unemployment are concerned my position from the beginning has been that it was the part of wisdom to search out and present the truth, however
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unpleasant it might be. Only by doing so can we know as a government the full measure of the task before us.
With that object in view we provided for a national registration of those in receipt of relief; and from the commencement of that registration we have published a monthly press release giving a summary of the latest available figures, with a comparison with the figures in the preceding month and also the same month in the preceding year. Those figures have separated agricultural aid from unemployment aid, and have also separated employables from heads of families and individuals who were dependent and unemployable. With the regular publication of these figures obtained through the national registration it has been possible to follow the changing trends of the relief situation from month to month and year to year. But the fact that these figures have been available has not prevented certain newspapers and periodicals from grossly distorting the true picture. Repeated references to "over. a million persons on unemployment relief" were being given wide publicity in September last, when 553,111 persons across Canada were registered as receiving material aid; and that number included children and aged dependents, unemployable and partially employable persons as well as farmers and their families, whose needs certainly did not arise from any lack of work. Actually at that time the employable persons being assisted numbered 114,460; yet .we read of "hundreds of thousands of Canadian workers on relief."
Perhaps no subject related to unemployment has been exposed to more misrepresentation than that of the transients. In January of this year a Canadian periodical, Maclean's magazine, in a leading editorial stated:
This month, at least 80,000 Canadians will be wandering back and forth across the country, without homes, without work, without definite relief status.
And this, the editorial stated, was a conservative estimate. No information was furnished as to the source of the estimate. Not to be outdone, a few days later one of the daily papers came out in an editorial with the information that there are said to be anywhere from 100,000 to 185,000 transients in Canada. Here again no indication was given as to who said there were such numbers. As a matter of fact, from a survey conducted by the Department of Labour in January information was obtained from reliable sources, the provincial governments and the two railway companies, showing that outside of those being cared for by the joint federal and provincial plan the transients, as fMr Rogers.]
defined in Maclean's magazine, numbered less than ten thousand,
I want to refer to another figure, again grossly distorted, that has been given wide currency in this country. It has been said that the number of idle young people in the country has reached a total of over 400,000. So far as I have been able to discover, that figure originated in a census survey, so-called, conducted by the Canadian Youth Congress. I do not for a moment question the motives of those who conducted this survey. The Canadian Youth Congress believes that there is a serious youth problem in this country, and I do not question that there is such a problem. What I do question is the technique of research which was adopted by those who made this astonishing computation of over 400,000 idle young people in Canada. Let me indicate briefly to the house, if I may, just what follows the publication of a figure of this kind. When the Canadian Youth Congress issued this figure it was made quite clear, for example, that it included young women as well as young men. But I have seen many a headline, arising from that survey, suggesting that there were 400,000 idle young men in Canada. Surely no one would suggest for a moment that the publication of information of that kind, unless it is based upon most authoritative evidence, can do other than harm not only to this country but to the very group whom the Canadian Youth Congress desire to serve. I have in mind, for example, an article which appeared in the Philadelphia Enquirer, a newspaper published in the United States, which has a wide circulation. This is the headline, bearing out what I said a moment ago:
450,000 Idle Youths Pose Grave Problem for Canada.
Then it goes on to explain that this information was obtained from a census survey conducted by the Canadian Youth Congress. I think it may be worth while to spend just a moment or so to explain how this total was arrived at.
In the first place it was not a census survey in the strict sense of that term. It was not even a sample census survey, based upon the actual investigation of conditions in any one city or group of cities. It was merely a computation obtained by a series of arbitrary deductions from the total number of young Canadians between the ages of fifteen and thirty, as given in the census of 1931. And I am informed, I believe reliably, that after making the various deductions, the figure of 465,000 remained. Remember, it includes those from fifteen to thirty years of age; but it
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also includes those within that age group who are living on farms in this country. The explanation given to me was that these young people are hot regarded as being gainfully employed. Well, Mr. Speaker, I did not have the good fortune to be brought up on a farm, but I have had some experience with farming operations; and to suggest that those included in this total who are living on farms in this country are not gainfully employed is surely a wide exaggeration of the truth.