The house resumed from Friday, February 6, consideration of the motion of Mr. Alphonse Fournier for an address to His Excellency the Governor General in reply to his speech at the opening of the session, and the amendment thereto of Mr. Hanson (York-Sunbury), and the amendment to the amendment of Mr. Coldwell.
Mr. GEORGE H. ROSS (Calgary East): Mr. Speaker, many very interesting arguments have been advanced in this debate. One of the most strongly pressed and in my opinion one of the most futile is the charge that it would be humiliating to .take a plebiscite at this time. The speech from the throne was no sooner delivered than one of the newspapers came out with the statement that a plebiscite would be most humiliating. The leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson) took up the cry in this house. It has also been raised with frenzied vigor by a number of speakers in this house and outside, and by a section of the press.
Why would it be humiliating to consult the people at this time? None of the speakers has told us. The press has not told us. I have asked a number of my friends that question, and not a man can tell me any reason why it would be humiliating to consult the people. Who would feel humiliated? I have never been humiliated by being consulted. I am sure the electors of my riding will not feel humiliated by being consulted. I do not believe any good Canadian will feel humiliated by being consulted.
The leader of the opposition has frequently referred to Australia as an example that Canada might very well follow. But I would remind him that during the last great war Australia on two different occasions consulted the people on the question of conscription, apparently without being humiliated. The suggestion that intelligent people will feel humiliated by being consulted is too absurd to pursue further.
The last speaker in this debate, the hon. member for Danforth (Mr. Harris), protested vigorously against some of the references that have been made to some of the people of Toronto. He spoke of "dry tinder" being ignited by the "flame of passion". I wish to point out to the hon. member that no one suggests that all the people of Toronto are igniting dry tinder by a flame of passion directed against
the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King). There are very many fine citizens in Toronto. It is only a clique of hysterical Toronto people and a section of the press that would sabotage the government in order to form a so-called national government to further the selfish interests of a few Toronto financiers. I realize that this is a serious statement to make of any group of citizens, but the ruthless emotional and false attacks being made on the Prime Minister force one to this conclusion. If they can only get rid of the Prime Minister they will have gone far in carrying out their nefarious purpose. WThat other reason have they for directing these vicious attacks against the Prime Minister? Surely every other member of the cabinet is equally responsible.
The speech made by the Prime Minister in this debate was clear and convincing in support of the plebiscite which is to be submitted to the people. He is probably the best informed man in Canada. He is now serving his fourth term as Prime Minister. As Secretary of State for External Affairs and as chairman of the war committee of the cabinet, he is probably better informed and knows how our war effort can best be put forward better than any other member of the cabinet. He is the man who selected and brought into his cabinet the able ministers conducting our war effort. It is under his leadership that the ministers have cooperated to put forth such a fully balanced total war effort.
Mr. Churchill, speaking in this chamber on December 30, 1941, used these words:
Canada is a potent magnet drawing together those in the new world and in the old, whose fortunes are now united in a deadly struggle for life and honour against the common foe.
Everybody knows of the splendid work done by our Prime Minister in bringing about the extremely friendly relations that exist between the United States and Canada and between the United States and the other British nations "now united in a deadly struggle for life and honour against the common foe." The Prime Minister is the personification of Canada's magnetism that brought about these good relations.
Our war effort has been magnificent. The New York Times recently said of it:
Canada's all-out war effort has been no mean accomplishment . . . the achievement has been one of the little appreciated miracles of the war.
These capable men who are making such a remarkably good job of conducting our - war effort have asked for a plebiscite. I shall gladly act on their judgment and vote for the motion before the house. I hope and believe that when the vote is taken the people of
The Address-Mr. Ross (Calgary)
Calgary East will vote for the plebiscite, and that the people of Canada will vote for it, and thus release the government from past commitments, and give them a free hand in conducting the war.
Last Friday the Minister of Pensions and National Health (Mr. Mackenzie) referred to some measures that have already been taken to deal with post-war problems. I wish to take advantage of this occasion to urge upon the government to provide a greater measure of social security and social insurance as a further measure to meet post-war problems. Existing legislation in Canada and in the provinces is wholly inadequate to relieve the misfortunes that come when earnings are cut off by want of work, old age, blindness, sickness or death, and when children are left with no one to care for them. It is good public policy to aid the worker in planning a defence against these hazards. He and his family should, not be allowed to become public charges. In the words of the preamble to the labour section of the Versailles treaty:
Universal peace . . . can be established only if it is based on social justice.
Let me quote further from the preamble. What I am about to quote was true of the industrial nations of the world at the time it was written in 1919; it is in a measure true of Canada to-day. The preamble says:
Conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled; and an improvement of those conditions is urgently required; as, for example, by the regulation of the hours of work, including the establishment of a maximum working day and week, the regulation of the labour supply, the prevention of unemployment, the provisions of an adequate living wage, the protection of the worker against sickness, disease and injury arising out of his employment, the protection of children, young persons and women, provision for old age and injury, protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own, recognition of the principle of freedom of association, the organization of vocational and technical education and other measures.
We should have a plan of social insurance in Canada that would afford a measure of protection not only to the worker but to his wife and dependent children as well. We have already the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1940; many of the provinces have workmen's compensation acts. But these are not enough. Under workmen's compensation acts compensation is payable for "personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment." There are a great many cases of distress against which protection is not given
by these acts. There should be insurance to protect the wage-earner in the case of industrial accidents to which these acts do not extend. There should be insurance to protect the worker in the case of illness and old age. There should be insurance to protect his wife and family in the case of his premature death. We should have social insurance in Canada to cover all such cases.
Many now employed are wondering what will happen after the war is over. When that time arrives and our men in the forces and in munition plants are demobilized we shall be met with a serious unemployment problem. A considered scheme of social insurance would solve a substantial portion of it.
1. It would lessen direct relief, which tends to destroy the morale of persons seeking it.
2. It would have a stabilizing influence in sustaining buying power after the war when expenditures are cut down.
3. It would cushion the shock which will be caused by the drop from present full-time employment to the lack of employment after the war.
4. It would give the worker and his family greater peace of mind so that they will make better citizens and do better work.
In the words of the report of the Mather commission:
Social insurance would remove the spectre of fear which now haunts the wage-earners; it would make him a more contented and better citizen.
If responsible government is to be a success in Canada we must have a united, happy and contented people. Nothing militates against unity, happiness and contentment more than fear.
In introducing social insurance a fund would have to be established out of which to pay those protected by the statute. The contributors should be the employer, the employee and the state.
As to the employer, the additional cost would not discriminate in favour of one employer against another in the same line of business, because all employers would have to contribute. It would be an additional cost that would be added to the eost of the article produced. The additional cost would not make it difficult for a producer in Canada to compete with producers in other parts of the world, because contributory social insurance already exists in the other principal industrial countries.
As to the worker, the cost to the worker with a small income would be considerable. The income of most workers is very small out of which to pay rent, to clothe and feed a family, to pay doctor's bills, and to build up a reserve to carry the worker through sick-