Hon. N. A. McLARTY (Minister of Labour):
Mr. Chairman, may I take this
opportunity to make a brief statement? On Friday last the hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker) referred to the estimate of expenditures on direct relief for this year, and compared it with the amount allocated last year. I told him at the time that the estimate was predicated on figures supplied by the municipalities to the provinces, which in turn were passed on to us. In this connection I should like to give such information as I have available.
As I pointed out previously, our contribution of forty per cent will remain unchanged in Saskatchewan, and our estimate is necessarily based upon figures supplied by the municipalities to the province, and by the province to us. I know the committee will appreciate the difficulty of making a definite estimate, more especially for Saskatchewan, where so much depends on weather conditions. Of
course we will maintain the forty per cent
ratio, even though it may require the payment of an amount somewhat larger than we at present estimate. Last year the total payment to Saskatchewan by the Department of Labour, representing the 40 per cent contribution to direct relief, amounted to $2,645,729.29. On January 11 of this year Saskatchewan suggested the closest estimate they could make would be $2,665,000, based on the forty per cent contribution arrangement. This included a small amount, not exceeding $40,000, for a provision in the agreement under which the dominion government pays fifty per cent of the cost in respect to persons who have no provincial residential qualifications.
Under date of April 16 the provincial director of relief advised the Department of Labour as follows:
We have already experienced a very substantial improvement in relief conditions due to improved crop conditions and the resultant improvement in economic conditions generally. I feel that further substantial reductions in relief costs will be possible in the next two or three months, but from that point on it is most difficult to make any forecast because the crop harvested next fall will determine, to a great extent, the extent of our relief requirements.
I may say for your information that we have had some heavy snow falls recently that have greatly improved moisture conditions all over the province, and while we are experiencing a very late spring, conditions now look fairly promising.
Since then the forecasts for the early months of the year have been fully substantiated; for example, in April and May of the current year the number on urban relief in Saskatchewan was down 44 per cent as compared
with the same months in 1939. The number on agricultural relief decreased by about 65 per cent in comparison with last year. This will necessarily involve corresponding reductions in relief costs.
With the factors I have mentioned as to the uncertainty of weather conditions and the information from the province as to the wide reduction in the numbers in receipt of direct relief, the closest estimate that the department can make as to the amount which will have to be paid to the province of Saskatchewan in the current year is approximately $2,000,000.
Subtopic: ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS-UNDERTAKINGS IN GENERAL INTEREST AND FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES