June 4, 1952

PC

Ellen Louks Fairclough

Progressive Conservative

Mrs. Fairclough:

Looking back over the years during which this fund has been accumulating, it is interesting to notice that up until the end of March, 1951-the end of the ten-year period-the fund had accumulated until it reached approximately $664,500,000. This is an average of $66,458,037 per year, with a low of approximately $44 million and a high of $82 million. Yet in the twelve months ending April 30 of this year the fund has increased by $109,470,000, or an increase of about 25 per cent over the very highest figure by which the fund had increased during the preceding ten years.

When one takes into consideration the fact that the two cents per day addition to the fund must have been responsible for a part of the increase, it would appear that even the increased unemployment and the demands which were made upon the fund this year have not been any particular drain on the reserves. When one also takes into consideration the fact that everything it is necessary to buy today has increased in price,

I am sure the increase in benefits which the minister has announced is on the low side. If I am not mistaken, some of the labour organizations were advocating an increase of about 50 per cent. While the government may have thought that figure high, nevertheless I feel that the slight increase which has been made of $3 on the $21 basis, or about one-seventh, can scarcely be dubbed handsome. I am sure the fund will not suffer by reason of this slight increase.

With regard to the increase in rates, I am a little bit disappointed that the minister did not announce some scheme for taking care of at least a portion of that group which have come to be known as unemployed employables, and of which I spoke at some length a year ago, at the time of the introduction of the labour estimates. As reported at page 2688 of Hansard of May 4, 1951, in describing these people I said:

There are many in this class of unemployed employables who never have been insured. Then there are those who are insured and who, when unemployment hits them, find that they have insufficient contributions to benefit. Regardless of the fact that they may have been paying into this fund for years, they will find that within the limits

of the act, in the period to which they must have reference, they just happen to have an insufficient number of stamps in their book to enable them to apply for unemployment insurance benefits. There are those who fall upon particularly evil days and who receive unemployment insurance benefits but are forced to accept them for a length of time which eventually exhausts the benefits which are due to them.

I realize that the fund can scarcely be expected to take care of those who have never been covered by unemployment insurance, but I do feel that those who have been engaged in insurable employment should have some provision made for them under this act. I trust that the minister is not going to let this matter drop but will inquire into that particular phase before long so that some provision may be made in the Unemployment Insurance Act to care for those who are engaged in insurable employment.

I feel that the increase in the benefits, even in this small way, is bound to be of advantage to the individual and to the municipality about which I shall speak later. The municipality must eventually carry the load caused by any shortcomings in benefits paid under unemployment insurance schemes.

No doubt the reduction in the number of waiting days has been brought about because of the representations made by labour organizations and by various members in this house. The statutory eight days, with one non-compensable day, making nine in all, has worked some hardship on those applying for benefit, but I would draw to the attention of the minister the fact that in many cases even this period is stretched out to as long as three weeks. Whether the fault lies with the department or with the applicant is always a matter of conjecture, but the fact remains that any lengthening of the period causes considerable distress to the applicant and his family. There again the municipality has to step into the picture to ease the load on the applicant until such time as funds become available in the ordinary course of events.

I urge upon the minister that in the studies which are being made special emphasis be placed upon streamlining the operations in the district offices so there can be a more efficient handling of applications and an earlier payment of benefits to applicants. That will need to be looked into particularly now that the time is to be shortened to five days. I presume there would still be one noncompensable day, making it a working week which the applicant must wait before he receives benefits. Any delay in the office places extra strain upon the economic resources of the worker who is unemployed.

I was interested to find that the period of entitlement for supplementary benefits has

been increased by fifteen days. In studying these amendments I could not fail to be impressed with what has happened this year, when we have had the greatest amount of unemployment for a considerable length of time. The pattern of unemployment in Canada is that the peak occurs in the second week in February, but this year the peak of unemployment was two months later.

Using the only source available, registrations for work, it is interesting to note that for the week of February 8, 1951, which was the second week in February, the registrations totalled 303,700. This was 5-83 per cent of our labour force, which was bordering on what we consider to be an unhealthy situation. Two months later this year, on April 3, 1952, the number of unemployed was 385,100 or 7-39 per cent of our labour force. No doubt the fact that the unemployment peak had shifted to a later period when we might expect that construction work and farm demands would have some effect influenced the minister in extending the period of entitlement for a few more days. Whether or not the fifteen days which he has allowed will be sufficient to take up the slack remains to be seen.

In addition to the registrations for employment obtained from the district offices there are those who do not apply at the employment offices and those who are on short time. This latter class has assumed large proportions this year. I do not think any figures are available to indicate just what is the size of this group, but I know that in my own town there are many people on short time, especially in the textile mills and the home appliance factories. It was very difficult to ascertain the extent of this part-time work because of the manner in which various firms computed their periods of employment. Some of them are on an hours per month basis and some are on the basis of a day's work and so on; therefore it was most difficult to arrive at a figure which one could quote. Nevertheless the general picture was not too good, particularly in the industries I have mentioned.

Those who are on part-time do not participate in unemployment insurance benefits to the extent of those who are unemployed. While there is some relief this semi-unemployment has contributed greatly to the load carried by the municipalities. You cannot have a serious impairment of the earning capacity of any group without at the same time having a threat to the economy of the country. I feel that in discussing the unemployment situation cognizance should be taken of this group which I believe is fairly large in all industrial centres. I refer to those

Unemployment Insurance Act on short-time, working either fewer days per week or fewer hours per day.

The minister has indicated certain administrative changes which will be made. I should like to draw to his attention once more the case of the married woman who comes under the regulations provided by section 5 (a) (1). Ninety days are required to re-establish benefit rights. This has been the subject of considerable discussion by labour organizations. Some have advocated that the ninety days be wiped out completely, others have asked that it be reduced to sixty days. I must say that I can recognize the difficulties which would be attendant upon removing this period entirely because in many cases it is very difficult to assess the intention of the individual. Nevertheless I feel that the reduction could be made to sixty days. That would be sufficient time to determine the intention of the applicant to remain in employment. It would safeguard the department in that respect and still reduce the number of days to the point where there probably would not be undue hardship upon those who would be affected.

I believe the day is fast approaching when all these discriminations!, shall we call them, against women in employment will be removed and we will have one set of rules which will apply to everyone. Apparently that time is not yet here and we have to move forward step by step as the occasion provides. I urge the minister to reconsider the representations made to him from different sources and to reduce the ninety days to at least sixty as a start and see how it works out. After it has been in operation for a while surely it will be apparent whether or not advantage is being taken of the leniency.

I said a while ago that I had hoped these amendments would provide some assistance in the field of unemployed employables. While I did read a part of what I said a year ago in this regard, I should like to emphasize once more that this is a problem which affects the municipalities acutely. Every year when we get into what is recognized as the unemployment period in the middle of winter, when the boats cease to operate, construction comes to a standstill and other such things happen that throw men out of work, welfare offices within the municipalities feel the shock. If as in this year and in 1950-I believe that was the last year which was serious, although not as serious as 1952-the appropriations made by municipalities to look after these people are overrun and additional appropriations are required, then the municipalities begin to worry very much about what the final outcome may be. While they can usually see the end in sight for the current season, nevertheless the knowledge is there that there may

Unemployment Insurance Act well come a time when the load will be so great that they will be unable to bear it. I believe it should not be left until in sudden panic a municipality is forced to make a plea to the provincial and federal authorities for aid before this matter is ironed out. I think it is a problem which is with us year after year, and it should be recognized by the federal authorities.

While I realize there is some case for saying that there should be provincial participation, nevertheless it should not be too difficult to achieve some sort of co-operation with the municipal and provincial authorities as a result of which the heavy load which hangs over their heads each year could be lightened to some extent. Certainly the fear of ultimate disaster could be removed by means of the co-operation which they may be led to expect.

There is one other major amendment to the act which I had hoped the minister would introduce this year. Last year when we were talking about unemployment insurance on the estimates- I made the suggestion that the commission should be enlarged by the addition of a woman member. I had hoped the minister might give that suggestion serious consideration -and do something about it. I realize that because of the nature of the composition of the commission it is difficult to achieve this end without appointing an extra commissioner, but I believe there is a very real need for a woman member on the commission. I ask the minister to give the matter serious consideration and see whether the act cannot be amended to provide for four commissioners instead of the present three, and to provide for the manner by which that additional appointment shall be made and by whom.

There are many problems that present themselves to a commission with jurisdiction over the working people of the nation in which the voice of a woman with long experience in employment would be of inestimable value. At this stage of the resolution I urge the minister to give serious consideration to this matter with a view to taking steps shortly to increase the membership of the commission by the appointment of a woman thereto.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCREASE RATES OF BENEFIT, TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF WAITING DAYS BEFORE RECEIPT OF BENEFIT, ETC.
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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Speaker, my first word in speaking to this motion will be to congratulate the minister on the announcement he made that the bill to be based on the resolution will include a fair employment practices provision. This is in keeping with legislation that many -of us have been seeking for a long time. It is in keeping with the desire of the labour movement of the country, and I am sure the

provision he has announced will receive the hearty endorsation of all members of the House of Commons.

Likewise we welcome the increase, slight though it is, in the amount of the benefits payable under the Unemployment Insurance Act.

Having handed out one bouquet, I also commend the minister for the fact that despite the procedural debate we had earlier today he has told us one of the amounts to be provided in the bill with respect to the new benefits to be paid. Sometimes we have arguments with ministers as to whether or not they should give us such information at the resolution stage. Ten years ago there was no question about it. We always got that information. I feel it is rather unfair to parliament that there should be such occasions when we plead with a minister to give us that information and he refuses it to us. Then we listen to the news at night and hear it over the radio because in the meantime the bill has been introduced and given first reading although we have not yet seen it. At any rate the Minister of Labour (Mr. Gregg) did not hesitate to tell us that the increase is to the amount of $24 a week in the top bracket, and that there will be corresponding increases for other categories.

As the hon. member for Hamilton West (Mrs. Fairclough) has already pointed out, welcome though any increase in this benefit is, this amount falls considerably short of what the labour congresses had hoped would be the increase. I have before me the briefs presented this year by the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada and the Canadian Congress of Labour. I note that the Canadian Congress of Labour expressed the hope that the increase would be commensurate with the increase in the cost of living since the last scale was established. An increase of $3 certainly does not cover that. I note that the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada expressed the hope that the increase would be not less than 50 per cent. On that basis we should have had the married benefit increased to something over $30.

When anyone from this side of the house greets an increase with the comment that it should have been more, there are those on the government side who say that we never take any other stand, and they suggest it is not an altogether responsible one. May I point out in this connection that the Canadian Congress of Labour has done some research into this whole matter. Indeed, a very interesting article entitled "The Congress and unemployment insurance funding" appeared in the May issue of The Canadian Unionist which is the official journal of the Canadian Congress of Labour. In this article the

author, Mr. Andras, stated the position of the congress rather succinctly by quoting in his opening paragraph from a statement made by Professor John S. Morgan which appeared in Canadian Welfare for September, 1949. The quotation reads as follows:

A plan, which operates on a comparatively short term financial basis ol ten years, with reserves sufficient to cover two years of benefit payments, is socially a sounder instrument of policy than a fund which piles up reserves against every possible contingency at the expense of current benefits and coverage.

The article to which I am referring goes on to point out that the issue that has to be faced in a matter like this is whether to pile up sufficient reserves to cover any emergency across several decades or whether to have regard to the rights and benefits to be obtained by the people who are currently paying into the fund. In other words, the problem is to deal with an insurance fund on as much of a pay-as-you-go basis as possible.

The Canadian Congress of Labour points out, as has the hon. member for Hamilton West, that the fund has grown tremendously; and perchance it is overfunded. Indeed, it is understood that the present fund was set up on the basis of 1921 to 1931 experience in Canada, experience which has become outdated. As a result of the fund having been set up on that basis and as a result of there now being such a large amount in it, the Canadian Congress of Labour expresses this viewpoint:

In the opinion of the Canadian Congress of Labour, the present fund is more than solvent. It has reached, or is reaching the position where additional reserves are merely frozen assets. Under the circumstances, the congress believes that the insured population is entitled to a "dividend" since it has been overinsured. Probably the most welcome kind of dividend would be an increase in the benefit rate.

So I submit, Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Congress of Labour, the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada and those of us in this house who have been expressing the same view are being quite responsible when we suggest that the basis upon which the fund has been established would now make possible larger increases in the benefits than have been announced by the minister. One *dares to hope further consideration might be given to this point as we proceed with the legislation.

Likewise we welcome the reduction in the number of waiting days. In the minister's language the period has been reduced from eight days to five days. In our language it has been reduced from nine days to six days, there being one non-compensable day. The labour congresses have urged that the waiting period be reduced progressively and even-

Unemployment Insurance Act tually eliminated altogether. They have also urged changes in respect of non-compensable days. Further consideration should be given to these points. A matter of a few days may not seem important to some people, but the average worker's income is such that he is living very close to the line. When he becomes unemployed he is up against it. In the circumstances we feel there is a strong case for eliminating the waiting period altogether. Now that we are moving in that direction we hope further consideration will be given to that point at later stages of this very resolution and the bill to be based on it.

Likewise we welcome the fact that there has been a slight extension of the period during which supplementary benefits can be paid.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there are two or three other matters that have not been covered so far as the minister's announcement would indicate. One of them was mentioned by the hon. member for Hamilton West when she raised the problem of the employable unemployed. It can be argued, of course, that theirs is a different position in some respects at any rate from those who are covered by the fund; but the problem is a related problem and we feel that federal responsibility for that problem should be recognized. Indeed, I remind the minister that the labour congresses have pressed for wider coverage by taking more categories of workers under the provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Act. We hope further consideration will be given those two related matters; on the one hand, federal provision for employable unemployed and, on the other hand, including under the provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Act a larger sector of the workers of this country.

With respect to the administrative changes which have been suggested by the resolution, we too hope something will be done with regard to the discrimination against married women. As the minister knows, this change came about as the result of a change in the act that was made in the early part of 1950, although the actual regulation did not come into effect until later that year. We have had discussions both public and private with regard to this matter, and some of us still feel that as the regulation now stands a special requirement is made of married women that is not made of any other category of claimant under the Unemployment Insurance Act. We feel this matter of discrimination should not be carried forward. Indeed, at this time, when the minister is introducing a fair employment practices provision, he should carry out the spirit and intent of that provision by eliminating this discrimination against married women.

Unemployment Insurance Act

Another matter we have raised from time to time in this corner is the problem of people who are on unemployment insurance benefits and become ill while they are drawing those benefits. As the minister no doubt knows, from having studied the debates on unemployment insurance which have taken place over the past number of years, this matter has been discussed frequently and at considerable length. Some of us had hoped on two or three occasions that the previous minister of labour had been won over to our point of view. Unfortunately no change was ever made and the situation still is that if a person qualifies for unemployment insurance benefits and is drawing those benefits but takes ill, he is struck off benefits even though there may be still no work for him.

Many a worker has had the experience of sending his wife down to collect benefits for the week he was ill and finding that was a mistake, that somehow or other he should have hobbled down there himself. We feel that something even wider than this is socially desirable, namely a health insurance program including sickness benefits; but what I am suggesting at the moment is that unemployment insurance should not be denied people who are unemployed and drawing benefits merely because they happen to take sick, particularly at a time when there is still no work for them. It is possible that the broad section of the resolution making provision for certain administrative changes may include something along that line. If not, I hope that as we proceed in our discussion of this measure we will get consideration of this point at this session. I can cut short my remarks on this phase of the matter by asking the minister to have the previous debates on this point studied. I am sure if he does study those debates closely he will realize the strength of our argument.

I hope he will do something about it at this session.

There is one other matter to which I should like to draw the minister's attention with respect to administrative changes. As he knows, earlier this session I tried to have tabled a document referred to as circular letter No. 19. It turned out that if such a document does exist it is only in the form of a proposed letter, and therefore could not be tabled. Later the minister did table circular letter No. 18 which is in effect. This is a document that covers, in a general way, the functioning of the national employment advisory committee, together with the regional and local committees. I understand that consideration is being given to a

change in the way in which those various committees, national, regional and local, function.

At the present time these committees function by a method which enables reports and messages to go from the local committee to the regional committee, and on up to the national committee; it also enables reports and replies to travel the other way. The proposal under consideration, as I understand it, is that the whole set-up be altered so that the local committees are denied that ready access to the regional and national committee which they have enjoyed. In some quarters it is felt that such a change would result in denying to those advisory committees the part they are now playing in the whole national employment scheme, which is part of the unemployment insurance program. Those who are against this proposed change feel that it puts too much power in the hands of the civil service side of the national employment service, and does away with the advantages to be gained by having these national, regional and local advisory committees.

As a matter of fact I was glad when the minister, in pointing out that he could not table circular letter No. 19, indicated that the reason was that it was not yet in effect. My purpose in speaking about it now is to express the hope that, in the form in which it was apparently drafted, it will not be put into effect; and that an effort will be made to retain the advantages of the national, regional and local advisory committees as they are now established and functioning.

There are several other matters, Mr. Speaker, with which we can deal when we get into committee on the resolution or on the bill. Generally speaking we are glad to have the changes that are being made, but we hope the suggestions we have offered will be given favourable consideration by the minister.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCREASE RATES OF BENEFIT, TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF WAITING DAYS BEFORE RECEIPT OF BENEFIT, ETC.
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Gordon Graydon (Peel):

I shall detain the house for only about a minute and a half, Mr. Speaker. In connection with this resolution I only want to say that I believe it is a high tribute to the hon. member for Hamilton West (Mrs. Fairclough), our only lady member in the house, for her persistence and skill in connection with the question of fair employment practices in Canada. She has been a mighty crusader on this point. If the opportunity arises later this session her bill, which is now on the order paper, will be before the house. I want to commend the minister for having an open mind with respect to the splendid representations which have been made by the lady member for

Hamilton West. It shows what a constructive member of parliament may be able to do in connection with these matters.

I want to add my word of praise for the splendid work which she has done in this connection. I should like also to endorse, if I may, the proposal she has made, which seems to me altogether reasonable and one which is overdue so far as government policy is concerned. Her proposal related to the appointment of a woman member to the unemployment insurance commission. The hon. member may feel that she is alone with respect to this advocacy because she is of that sex, but I believe she will find support for her proposal on all sides of the house. I would suggest to the minister that, among other things, the resolution stage of a measure is for the purpose of allowing suggestions to be made to the government. The minister will earn additional commendation from the house if he will incorporate in his legislation the proposal the hon. member for Hamilton

Unemployment Insurance Act West made so eloquently a few moments ago If he does so, he will have strong support from parliament in general. I hope I have been within my time limit.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCREASE RATES OF BENEFIT, TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF WAITING DAYS BEFORE RECEIPT OF BENEFIT, ETC.
Permalink
SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. Johnston:

The hon. member who just spoke may be within his time limit, but he carried the debate up until six o'clock. It does not leave the rest of us much time, and I do not think I could say what I desire to say within the time that remains. May I call it six o'clock, Mr. Speaker?

On motion of Mr. Johnston the debate was adjourned.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCREASE RATES OF BENEFIT, TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF WAITING DAYS BEFORE RECEIPT OF BENEFIT, ETC.
Permalink

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

LIB

Alphonse Fournier (Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Fournier (Hull):

Tomorrow we will take up the estimates of the following departments: resources and development, national health and welfare, labour, and fisheries.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Permalink

At six o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order.



Thursday, June 5, 1952


June 4, 1952