I represent a working class constituency. I have a fairly long association with organized labour and other working class movements, so I wish to say something about the aspirations and the fears of the working people, not only of my own constituency but of Canada, as I see and understand them.
Perhaps the greatest fear to-day among the workers is that of unemployment, the fear that we may be slipping back to the days and the conditions prior to 1939-and I have a fairly good idea that other people besides the workers have this same fear.
When the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) replied to the criticism of the leader of tne opposition (Mr. Bracken) last Monday on unemployment, he brushed that criticism aside by asking this question: Though employment is not all that we would wish it to be, where is there a country better off than Canada?
An lion. MEMBER: Hear, hear.
Mr. MaeINNIS: My hon. friend says "hear, hear." Then the Prime Minister went on to compare conditions in Canada with those in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Holland and other parts of Europe. Such sophistry is begging the question, because conditions in Canada are not comparable with conditions in the United Kingdom or in the countries of Europe. The war destroyed the economy of almost the whole of Europe; and in the United Kingdom, if the country's economy was not destroyed by war, the whole economy was converted to war purposes. But in Canada the same war made this country greater and richer and more able to provide for the people than ever it was before. So it is sheer nonsense to compare conditions in Canada at the present time with conditions in almost any other part of the world. Perhaps the only comparable country is the republic to the south'of us. The fact of the matter is that at the present time we have unemployment on a large scale. I would urge the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) and other members of the cabinet not to be too offhand about it, because the 263,000 who were unemployed at the date of the last report, and the others who do not know how soon they also may be unemployed, are not offhanded about it. Perhaps of itself 263,000 is not an alarming number; but it is alarming in view of the world's need and Canada's need of goods.
I am aware of the fact that unemployment is not yet acute, that there is no mass suffering such as we had in the thirties. The reason of course is that we have made some provision against it. There are the unemployment insurance benefits; there are also the
sayings made during the war when work was plentiful, and service pay, and the like. But these resources, however large they may be, are limited, and are a mere stop-gap. What is causing the workers worry to-day is not so much the present unemployment, although it is bad enough, but the fact that no plan is being prepared to obviate the conditions which brought about such disastrous results in the thirties. There are no plans for public welfare, and the position of the average worker is as- it always has been-the harder he works the sooner he is looking for another job. Until we get away from that, and the worker has assurance of continuity of income, there will always be that worry.
The only reference in the speech from the throne to unemployment is typical of the old thinking in the new world upon which we are entering. I read from Hansard, page 1:
The maintenance of a high level of employment and national income is a fundamental aim of government policy. Employment and income alike are bound up with the restoration -and expansion of world trade. To the productive employment of vast numbers of Canadians, export markets are essential.
I submit, Mr. Speaker, that that is old stuff. It was dinned into our ears all during the depression. I appreciate as much as anyone does the value of export trade, but export trade will not put an end to unemployment and distress in this country; it will make for unemployment unless we are prepared to make trade a two-way affair. That is, unless we are prepared to accept imports in the full measure of our exports and to distribute to our people the national income so created, foreign trade will not help us very much. I believe we shall have to approach full employment, the elimination of unemployment, in a time of peace in somewhat the same way as we proceeded during the war. We put an end to unemployment during the war, not by trying to find work or to make work for people, but by producing the needs of war. Now, with peace here, there are peace-time needs, and if we put our people to work to satisfy the needs of peace, to provide the things which our people need in their everyday life, not only shall we find work for everyone, but there will be more jobs than workers, as there were during the war.
There are other measures to which I wish to refer, but before I do so I want to say that I believe that labour in Canada deserves the appreciation of the government and of the people for the freedom from industrial strife enjoyed by this country since the end of hostilities. The smoothness with which
The Address-Mr. Maclnnis
production and services were carried on at a time when wages were falling and prices rising has been of tremendous advantage to this country. In that respect the situation here has been quite different from what it has been on the other side of the border. But organized labour will demand wage increases, and will demand them because they have become necessary. Now that the war is over and there is more civilian production, labour is entitled to a higher, not a lower, standard of living. High wages are also necessary because high wages will help to prevent another depression. In our capitalist economy depressions always come about when there is an over-supply of goods for which there is a need, but those who have the need have not the price to buy. Therefore, higher wages will help to prevent another depression.
During the war there was a ceiling on wages. I agree that it was necessary to stabilize wages, although I have always maintained in this house and outside that to the extent that a stable price structure was maintained, to that extent the burden was borne by the low-paid wage and salary earner. I suggest that the government should not wait for strikes and disputes before there is an increase in wages. The government should make it quite clear that it is in favour of increases in wages at the present time.
There will also be a demand for shorter hours. The two national labour bodies, the trades and labour congress and the Canadian congress of labour, have gone on record in favour of a forty-hour week without reduction in pay. This will mean, if it does come about, that where there is a forty-four hour week and it is reduced to forty, a ten per cent wage increase will be required, and if it is forty-eight hours reduced to forty, the necessary wage increase will be twenty per cent. There are many industries in Canada in which the work week is much higher than forty-eight hours and even fifty-six hours a week.
While we are discussing shorter hours we should not lose sight of the world's tremendous needs for production. I suggest to the Minister of Labour and the government that they should take into consideration the calling of a conference of representatives of organized labour, organized employers and the government to discuss the best means of attaining full production and full employment. Such conferences have taken place in the United Kingdom, and . I believe they have been productive of much good.
I am suggesting such a conference because I believe that full production at this time is exceedingly important. I notice that the Minister of Labour ip a recent speech at Renfrew said:
We must use the same characteristic good sense which we used when our backs were to the wall, and then the Canadian people will be able to overcome any difficulties which we may face.
I agree with the minister that, united, we can overcome any of our difficulties in Canada, and I suppose almost everyone will agree with him in that. But I should be astonished if the minister finds the same attitude towards that sort of cooperation to-day as he found during the war. Indeed, the whole cry for the removal of controls is to get away from working together and back to the old system of everyone for himself and the dievil take the hindmost.