June 10, 1952


Motion agreed to.


LIB

Walter Edward Harris (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Harris (Grey-Bruce):

I move that Bill No. 305 be referred to the special committee.

Topic:   MOTION FOR SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION
Permalink

Motion agreed to.


UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT

AMENDMENT TO INCREASE RATES OF BENEFIT, TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF WAITING DAYS BEFORE RECEIPT OF BENEFIT, ETC.


The house resumed, from Wednesday, June 4, consideration of the motion of Mr. Gregg that the house go into committee to consider the following resolution: That it is expedient to introduce a measure to amend the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1940, to increase certain rates of benefit under the act; to



Unemployment Insurance Act reduce the number of waiting days before the receipt of benefit; to extend the period of entitlement for supplementary benefits; and to make provision for certain administrative changes.


PC

George Harris Hees

Progressive Conservative

Mr. George H. Hees (Broadview):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to deal now with some aspects of the unemployment insurance operations in this country which I think could be improved upon. To illustrate my point I should like to cite an experience one of my constituents had in dealing with the unemployment insurance commission. This man was laid off from his job last November, and applied for unemployment insurance, to which he had been contributing ever since the scheme started eleven years ago. He drew benefits for thirteen days, but when his eyesight became so bad that he had to enter hospital for an operation, his benefits were cut off.

I was advised of this, and I wrote to the unemployment insurance commission asking why these benefits had been cut off. In reply I received a letter under date of February 20, 1952, from Mr. B. G. Sullivan, Ontario regional director of the unemployment insurance commission, reading as follows:

Further to mine of February 13, I have now had this request looked into and have had an officer call on Mr. and Mrs. Monk. According to our records Mr. Monk filed claim for benefits on December 10, 1951, at which time he established a credit of 303 days at $3.05 per day. Thirteen days' benefit were drawn, up to and including January 3, 1952. However, on January 5, he was taken ill, and was in hospital until January 21, when he was discharged as being permanently blind.

I am sure you understand that one of the five statutory conditions governing the payment of benefits under our act is that the claimant must be capable of, available for, and unable to find suitable employment. Obviously Mr. Monk would not meet this requirement while in hospital, and his condition on discharge being as described, he could no longer be considered capable of employment. Regardless of the distress, and I assure you it does cause us distress for our insurance officers to have to make some decisions, the matter is entirely beyond our control.

I thought you might be interested to know that our officer who called on Mr. and Mrs. Monk prefaces his report with the following;

"I found Mr. and Mrs. Monk to be a fine old couple whose recent path in life has been anything but a bed of roses."

Our officer assures me that both of these good people now fully understand our inability to pay them benefits under our act.

I believe that this letter indicates a shocking bureaucratic tendency to treat people merely as cases in a file, rather than as human beings. It seems to me that the employees of the unemployment insurance commission are interested only in getting a file off their desk, rather than in seeking a humanitarian and constructive solution to each case.

This letter shows that it never occurred to the employees of the unemployment insurance commission to contact the Canadian

National Institute for the Blind to see if it would be possible for Mr. Monk to become once again usefully employed. To them he was blind; he could no longer be employed; and so they could file his case and forget about it.

Most people know, and certainly those connected with employment services should know, of the tremendous strides which have been made in recent years in rehabilitating the physically handicapped. Those who are blind, deaf, dumb, or who have lost the use of one or more of their limbs, have been fitted into jobs which they can handle, often better than those who have full possession of their faculties. The record of progress and achievement in this field during the past few years is a very remarkable one indeed. Therefore, one would think that the first thing the employees of the unemployment insurance commission would do would be to contact the Canadian National Institute for the Blind to see if Mr. Monk could be found suitable and useful employment.

Upon receipt of Mr. Sullivan's letter, I requested that the Canadian National Institute for the Blind should be contacted to see what could be done in Mr. Monk's case. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind got in touch immediately with Mr. Monk's employer, and they found that he was a valued machine operator, whom they would be glad to have back if satisfactory guards could be designed for his machines. These were provided, and Mr. Monk is once again usefully and happily employed.

However, the important thing is that none of this rehabilitation would have taken place if reconsideration had not been requested of the unemployment insurance commission. They simply washed their hands of Mr. Monk as soon as they learned he had lost his sight.

If a man or woman develops a disability, I believe that the first thing to do is to try to cure the disability. If that cannot be done, then the person should be taught a trade. This will require a well planned and well executed government rehabilitation program, both physical and occupational.

An example of physical rehabilitation is the case of a man who is suited only to heavy manual work, and who has developed a bad hernia. If the hernia is not cured, the man will not be able to earn his living at the only kind of work he is capable of doing. However, if it is made possible for him to have an operation, his hernia can be cured, and he will be able to earn his living at the trade which he is capable of handling.

An example of occupational rehabilitation is the man who loses his sight, and is thereby unable to earn his living at his regular trade. In many cases, as in the case of Mr. Monk, this man can be taught how to handle his old job by using special guards or aids designed by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. If the nature of his old job is such that it is impossible for him to continue at it, then the likelihood is that he can be taught a new trade.

These are merely two examples of what can be done to enable those who have become incapacitated, either by accident or by disease, to continue to earn their own living. No worth-while person wants charity or to remain in idleness. They want to continue to earn their living and retain their independence. A well-planned and well-executed rehabilitation program, carried out in co-operation with the provinces, would, in the majority of cases, make this a reality.

At the end of the last war a great number of disabled veterans were taught new trades or were shown how to continue their old trades despite their disabilities. If the same program were carried out in industry, far more disabled persons would be able to earn their own living today.

I believe it is the responsibility of this government, in co-operation with the provinces, to institute such a rehabilitation program. Such a program will ensure that those who are disabled will be given every opportunity to cure their disabilities or, failing that, to learn a trade by which they can earn their living.

Now let us turn to the case of the man or woman who, because of disability, finds it impossible to continue in useful and satisfactory employment. In the case of Mr. Monk, the commission cut off his benefits as soon as they learned that he was blind, even though he still had nearly $900 unemployment insurance standing to his credit. This $900 credit was his by right, because it had been built up solely by contributions made by Mr. Monk and his employer for the sole purpose of maintaining him if he should become unemployed.

There is no time when a man or woman needs the unemployment insurance credit they have built up quite so much as when a physical disability prevents them from working. Not only do they have to maintain themselves, but they have doctor and hospital bills to pay as well. The important thing to remember is that whatever credit a man or woman has built up is his or hers by right. It exists only because the man or woman and the employer have contributed 55704-194J

Unemployment Insurance Act toward it for the specific purpose of its being available if the employee, for some reason or other, is unable to continue to work.

Therefore, I believe that the Unemployment Insurance Act should be amended to allow for payment of benefits if the commission's doctors certify that the disability prohibits the man or woman from continuing to work. I urge the minister to give this matter serious consideration and to bring in an amendment to the act at the earliest possible opportunity. I also urge the government to give consideration to paying a disability pension, equal to the old age pension, and to be paid irrespective of age-

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

Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order. I think the hon. member is now going beyond the provisions of the resolution. In fact during his remarks I think he has at times gone quite beyond the provisions of the resolution. I allowed him to continue because there is a clause in the resolution with respect to certain administrative changes, but I doubt if what he is saying now refers to administrative changes.

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

George Harris Hees

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hees:

Mr. Speaker, I only have half a sentence to finish. May I finish the sentence? -to all persons whose disability makes it impossible for them to continue to earn their own living.

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

John Sylvester Aloysius Sinnott

Liberal

Mr. Sinnoil:

That is a good written speech.

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. C. E. Johnston (Bow River):

Mr. Speaker, I think the Department of Labour should be congratulated on introducing legislation concerning the Unemployment Insurance Act. When the minister was speaking the other day I noticed that, as was pointed out by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles), he indicated what was to be in the bill. That is the first time that has happened, and it is of assistance to all members in discussing the resolution. I am going to read the resolution because I want to refer to the four separate points outlined in it. When the minister was speaking the other day he put the resolution on the record. It reads as follows:

That it is expedient to introduce a measure to amend the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1940 to increase certain rates of benefit under the act; to reduce the number of waiting days before the receipt of benefit; to extend the period for entitlement for supplementary benefits; and to make provision for certain administrative changes.

The problem of unemployment is a very great one. It is a most important question to the people concerned. The total of registered employable unemployed amounts to 385,100, pretty close to half a million people. When you consider that there are many others unemployed in Canada who are not registered with the unemployment insurance [DOT]commission then you can see that the figure

Unemployment Insurance Act of half a million people is very close to being correct. The resolution indicates that there is going to be an increase in the rate of benefit from $21 to $24. That is only an increase of $3; nevertheless it is welcome. Whether it will be sufficiently large to meet the increased cost of living is another question. When one stops to consider that the fund has now reached the very large amount of $782,231,826.91, it does seem that possibly the minister might have gone a little farther so far as increasing the rate of benefit is concerned without affecting the solvency of the fund.

Last year the increase in the fund was over $109,470,000. It will be remembered about a year and a half ago the contribution rates to the fund for employers and employees were increased. With the workers now required to pay a greater amount, and with the fund increasing and in good condition, it would seem that we might have gone a little farther this time when we are making changes and might have given the worker a little more by way of increased benefits without endangering the solvency of the fund. I quite understand that if we were to go into a period of depression such as we had in the 1930's this amount of money, although large, would not go very far toward taking care of the tremendous unemployment problem that might develop. However, the fund was never intended for that purpose, and I do not think it is the intention now that it should be used to carry us over a long period of depression. It could not do that in any event. It was only intended to take care of-I was about to say "an emergency condition" but that is hardly the term a period of six months or a year. If we were to go into a period of depression other legislation would be required to solve the problem.

Most of the labour organizations requested a greater increase than is suggested. However, as I said, the increase is welcome. I am sure that labour organizations throughout the country, and particularly the men concerned, will welcome even the small increase of $3 a week. There is one other matter for which I think the minister should be commended, the lessening of the number of days of waiting. The statutory period was eight days. It seemed to me that was a rather long time to have to wait. As was pointed out by the minister, the required period of waiting is now to be only five days. In actual fact that is six days because there is one day that is non-compensable. I think that the waiting period could very easily be reduced to two days without endangering the operations of the fund. In actual fact it would be three days because

there would still be one day which would be non-compensable. The period for supplementary benefits has been extended to 15 days, and that will be a welcome change.

There is one other point that I want to mention, Mr. Speaker, and it concerns married women. Under the statute 90 days is required before they can receive re-establishment benefits. I know of the difficulties that are attendant upon a problem of this kind. We have discussed them in committee and on other occasions. Problems are presented that are sometimes difficult to iron out. In many cases the privileges which are extended under the act are abused. On the whole, however, I believe the percentage would be rather small. I would suggest to the minister that 90 days seems to be a rather long period and that, without interfering with the functions of the act, that period could be reduced to 60 days at least.

I should like to mention another subject which comes under the act, and that is the unemployment insurance assistance which is given to people who are unemployed, but is suddenly cut oft if they become sick. This act serves a useful purpose in the city of Drumheller, because the people in that locality do become temporarily unemployed and must seek assistance from this fund. But it does seem to me to be an odd situation that a man who becomes ill when he is in receipt of unemployment insurance should suddenly have those benefits cut off. I know the underlying principle well, that being that the man should be in a position to accept employment when it is offered. I would venture to say that in almost 95 per cent of these cases when the man who is receiving unemployment insurance suddenly becomes sick, there is no work immediately available. I feel that there should be some elasticity in the regulations. Some consideration should be given to those individuals, and they should be allowed to receive unemployment insurance assistance even though they are sick.

It is extremely difficult for a workingman to carry on when he is sick. When his unemployment insurance assistance is cut off, he is in a much more difficult position than he was the day before when he was able to go to the unemployment insurance office to see whether or not there was work available. I cannot understand why we should create unnecessary hardship for individuals, particularly on that occasion when they need assistance. I do not know just what complications might arise if we were to endeavour to amend the act in order to overcome this problem, but when some obvious hardship presents itself I am sure the minister could find some way of amending the act to give the necessary assistance.

If my memory serves me correctly, Mr. Speaker, there are only about 5 per cent of the total people employed in Canada who come under the unemployment insurance fund. The minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that is about the figure. Those who are casually employed, such as agricultural workers, do not come under this fund. Now, that is particularly noticeable in western Canada where agricultural work is, on the whole, seasonable employment. During the harvesting the men are only employed for two or three weeks. There was a time when harvesting would employ the men for two or three months, but that time has long passed, owing to the development of modern machinery. This represents a large proportion of our population that is not covered by this act. There are other people who are only employed for short periods of time who are not covered by this act.

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

Milton Fowler Gregg (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. Gregg:

Might I interject a correction?

I am sure the hon. member would not want the statement he made a moment ago to go uncorrected. I presume he will admit that it was the paid workers he was thinking about when he suggested that percentage, and I think he would like to have the correct figure. Of the paid workers of Canada 2,915,000 do come under the insurance act, and only

934,000 do not. Then, of course, there is the great field of farmers and self-employed in addition.

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:

When I was speaking I mentioned that the figure was subject to correction, so I am glad the minister has put the correct figure on the record. I wonder if the figure which the minister gave a moment ago includes those who are employed for only a short period of time, such as the agricultural workers, who do not come under the act?

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

Milton Fowler Gregg (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. Gregg:

No, that does not include agricultural workers.

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:

That would make a difference, and when you consider all those people it may be that the figure which I quoted would not be so far out. That is what I had in mind when I made that statement. It does seem that if we are going to have an unemployment insurance fund to assist people when they are unemployed, then we should endeavour to have a greater coverage. I believe it would be a help to those people who are in need on certain occasions.

There is a great deal more that could be said in this respect, Mr. Speaker, but I do not want to delay the introduction of the bill itself. While the minister has been good enough on this occasion to indicate some of the changes that are going to take place when

Unemployment Insurance Act the bill is introduced, I believe we can discuss the sections more intelligently when we see the bill itself.

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

Joseph William Noseworthy

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

Mr. J. W. Noseworthy (York South):

have a few comments to make on this legislation, Mr. Speaker, and I think I might as well make them at this stage as wait for the introduction of the bill. In so far as the bill will increase the amount of benefits payable, in so far as it shortens the waiting period from eight days to five and lengthens the period in which supplementary benefits may be payable, the bill will be welcomed by those who are interested in or affected by our unemployment legislation. Labour throughout the country has for some time been asking for amendments to this act. They are not going to be content with the improvements that are being made. I suppose it is possible that the minister may take the position that labour is never satisfied with the improvements he makes to such an act as this in any case. But labour is not convinced that the amount in the fund does not warrant benefits of more than $24 a week. The fact that the fund has grown to nearly $800 million indicates to workers that the government is apparently more concerned in building a fund and in having available a few hundred million dollars than it is in using those dollars for the benefit of those who are concerned with the payment of them. The primary purpose of the unemployment insurance fund is to provide assistance to men and women when they are unemployed. The question now is whether the department is using that fund, and the millions available in that fund, to the limit in rendering that assistance.

As to the waiting period, labour groups ask that it should be eliminated altogether. The fact that the bill states that the waiting period is to be reduced to five days does not, in many instances, mean much. In the days when the waiting period was supposed to be eight days, many an unemployed person had to wait two and three weeks and sometimes longer, before he could get his claim adjusted. If the five days were the maximum number that any unemployed person had to wait to get his claim adjusted, there would not be so much criticism. But whether it is because of inefficiency within the administration of the act, or whether it is because too few are employed in the administration of the act, or whether it is because, when there was a great deal of unemployment during the past winter months, sufficient help was not provided to take care of the work, or whether it is because of cramped quarters and lack of accommodation, unfortunately the fact is that in many instances workers have had

Unemployment Insurance Act to wait and have had to suffer serious inconvenience by having to wait more than the allotted eight days, as the waiting period was formerly; it is now to be five days.

Some months ago when I was speaking on this matter, I suggested that if the government insists on a waiting period, and so long as these waiting periods are quite extensive, as they sometimes are, the government should make some arrangements between the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Act and the welfare department of the municipality in which the office is situated, whereby a man can get from the welfare department an advance against his unemployment insurance. I pointed out that that procedure is adopted in connection with workmen's compensation, that it works quite satisfactorily and that in many cases, where there is a serious delay, workers are able to get relief immediately from their welfare officer, and the welfare officer is repaid later when the unemployment insurance becomes due. Some drastic changes are needed to avoid the unnecessary suffering that has been caused in the past to workers who have had to wait for unemployment insurance adjustments much longer than the legal waiting time.

Then as to the Toronto district, there is this question of providing accommodation. I have pointed out before that in the Toronto district we need an unemployment insurance office somewhere in the vicinity of Eglinton avenue and Dufferin street or even a little bit farther north. To hundreds of unemployed the department is causing unnecessary expense and trouble by forcing them to go down to the central unemployment insurance offices. I am sure the minister's own officers who are employed at Spadina avenue and out at the junction can assure him that this administration of the act in the Toronto district could be improved considerably if more spacious accommodation were provided farther north. I think people are now obliged to come all the way from Richmond Hill down to Spadina avenue in order to collect their unemployment insurance.

I have called attention before to the fact that there seems to be altogether too much bookkeeping involved in this matter of unemployment insurance. One experienced unemployment insurance official remarked to me that there is just about as much bookkeeping involved in connection with unemployment insurance as there is in running the whole Canadian National Railways. It would seem to me that the department should concern itself with finding some simpler way of handling this problem. I think it may be possible to consider the whole basis upon which payment is made. Here the officials of the

department have to keep an employment record of the worker, and they have to go back through the years to find out how many days of unemployment insurance benefit he is entitled to when he reports for unemployment insurance. The number of days, of course, is determined by the amount that he has built up in the fund.

It would seem to me that it would be a much more satisfactory service to the unemployed if that fund were to be used as a co-operative enterprise or a co-operative fund to provide the unemployed with unemployment insurance for whatever period the department determined was a reasonable one or for whatever period it thought the fund could stand. As the situation now is, a man can get unemployment insurance only on the basis of the number of days or years during which he has contributed to the fund; but that provision is hedged about by a number of regulations which deprive many a man of benefit to the full extent of his contributions to that fund. If, for instance, during the period while he is contributing he becomes an employer and ceases to make contributions for a number of years, he may find himself in a position where, having contributed to unemployment insurance for years, he becomes an employee again, becomes unemployed but because he has not built up a sufficient fund within a given period of time, he does not get any unemployment insurance. I have had a number of instances of people who, in my opinion, should have been provided with unemployment insurance; they were men who had made the necessary contributions but because of some rigid regulation which required that there had to be a certain number of contributions within a given period of time, these people had to forgo all that they had placed in the fund at an earlier period, and they received no unemployment insurance at all.

It would seem to me that if there is available an unemployment insurance fund, and if a man becomes unemployed, he should receive payments from that fund at whatever rate is fixed by the government and for whatever length of period the government decided that payments should be made. It should not be related to the number of contributions that he has made. A younger man, for instance, gets a job. For many years he has not had an opportunity of contributing to unemployment insurance. He gets married and begins to raise a family. He suddenly finds himself out of a job, and it is too bad if he has to depend upon the government employment service to get him a job. He remains unemployed. He has not been contributing through any fault of his, and yet he finds that he is not entitled to unemployment insurance. It seems to me that if ?

man is unemployed the fund should be available to take care of him either for whatever period is decided upon by the government or until he himself, with or without the assistance of the government officers, can find a job.

They tell me that in the state of Michigan they have adopted the payment of unemployment insurance on some such basis as that. A man becomes unemployed, and if he can satisfy the authorities that he is genuinely unemployed he is entitled to unemployment insurance for whatever length of time the regulations permit the department to pay unemployment insurance, and there is no relation between the insurance he gets and the amount of contributions he has made. There is no necessity for the government to keep records of the man's employment over the years and the amount he has paid into the fund.

It would seem to me that by adopting something of that nature you should be able to get away from all this bookkeeping which requires a small army of bookkeepers to take care of the unemployment insurance fund. These are just a few of the things that I have learned from close association with the unemployed and with the unemployment insurance officers and from long conversations with the men who are close to this problem and who have to deal with it day by day.

I have one other suggestion. I think the government would be well advised to take some measures to step up the efficiency of the unemployment end of these offices. These offices today are degenerating into offices that hand out unemployment insurance and that administer unemployment insurance and do very little more. It may be because of the conditions; it may be because during the last winter it was difficult to get jobs; but the people who become unemployed find themselves with very little confidence in the ability of those government offices to assist them to get back into employment. Probably something could be done to improve that side of the department's work, namely, the finding of employment, as well as the administering of the unemployment insurance fund.

(Translation):

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

Maurice Breton

Liberal

Mr. Maurice Breton (Jolielle-L'Assomp-tion-Montcalm):

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate the Minister of Labour (Mr. Gregg) for having introduced amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Act designed particularly to increase the benefits for the unemployed and reduce the number of waiting days. I would like to say a few words only, in order to bring the government to

Unemployment Insurance Act see to it that the regulations the unemployment insurance commission may lay down in connection with the administration of the act be such that the unemployed will not be compelled, in practice, to wait more than the nine days mentioned in the act. In fact it often happens, although the regulations provide for a period of nine days. Sometimes people are unfortunately compelled to wait more than two or three weeks before receiving their benefits.

The point I wish particularly to stress, however, has to do with the court of referees. As a matter of fact, section 52 of the Unemployment Insurance Act provides that the commission may establish a court of referees in each district. Section 53 is more specific; the commission may establish courts of referees wherever it deems necessary to do so. The discretion thus left to the unemployment insurance officials results in a tendency to centralize the appeals to the unemployment insurance commission more and more in the larger centres-in Montreal and Quebec, for instance-in our province, and I suppose that it is the same in the other provinces.

I must say that, in our district, approximately twenty thousand employees come under the Unemployment Insurance Act. We had, at one time this winter, about two thousand unemployed. I respectfully submit that wherever there is an unemployment insurance office, there ought to be also a court of appeal.

These courts of appeal are said to have been eliminated-or rather there is a tendency to abolish them-for so-called reasons of economy. Such economy measures are detrimental to the working class and to those who are entitled to unemployment insurance benefits. Much too often, unfortunately, decisions rendered under the unemployment insurance regulations with regard to benefits are rather arbitrary, and the insured is justified in filing an appeal, in which case he is then compelled to assume his transportation costs to Montreal or Quebec, where the appeal will be heard, or again to some place seventy-five or a hundred miles away from his home. I maintain that the whole thing is unfair to the insured and that in each and every district where there is an unemployment insurance office, the government should also maintain a court of referees.

(Text):

May I draw the attention of the minister to the fact that the liberty given to the commission to establish a court of referees in such districts as the commission may think fit is unjust to the great number of employees

Unemployment Insurance Act in such districts where there are perhaps

30,000 employees under the jurisdiction of an unemployment insurance office. I believe it would be fair to these employees if they could appeal to a court of referees in the same district in which they work instead of being obliged to go perhaps a hundred miles to Montreal, Quebec or to some such place to place their appeal.

The tendency of the commission, in virtue of the law, is to centralize the courts of referees in any place that they may see fit. I think it would be unfair to the employees; and I receive many protests in my district from the workers association to the effect that this decision made by officers of the government, who perhaps are competent, indicates that they do not understand clearly the local conditions. I am referring particularly to those who work in the bush, and who hold other seasonal employment.

With this in mind I would ask the government to amend the act, by changing the word "may" to "must" or have it read in this way:

Panels of persons chosen to represent employers and Insured persons respectively shall be constituted by the commission for such districts where there is an office of unemployment insurance.

I think that for the small difference in economy which would be brought about by centralizing the courts in Montreal or Quebec, it would be much better to give a chance to the employees. No one could complain that it is a waste of money.

(Translation):

I have no more to say on the subject for the time being; I have formulated my request on behalf of the working class and I hope that the government will see fit to take appropriate measures in that connection; indeed, if we abolish the courts of referees in the small towns of the province of Quebec, and establish them instead in the large cities, ostensibly for reasons of economy, everybody will have a right to complain; for the working people, who represent a large proportion of our population, are absolutely entitled to ask that certain expenses be incurred on their behalf.

(Text):

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

Joseph Warner Murphy

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. W. Murphy (Lamblon West):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to place before the minister representations on behalf of the farmers in my constituency who work in industry during what they describe as the off season.

Let me say at the beginning that, having received representations from a group of farmers, I took the matter up with the chief commissioner of the unemployment insurance commission who, in turn, was kind enough

[Mr. Breton.)

to interpret the act. I am wondering if when he replies the minister would indicate whether some fqrther consideration could be given to a condition which I believe is unfair to this group of farmers.

In the first paragraph of his letter to me on May 15, the commissioner said:

A farmer is generally considered not available for employment and therefore not entitled to benefit during the farming season.

There may be some question in the minds of the officers in the department as to what constitutes the farming season. It is true that in some areas in Canada the farming season might be described as beginning with seeding and closing with the harvest. Then there are other sections in which the farming season extends from one end of the year to the other. I am wondering if there could be some clarification of that point, because it affects a number of people in the Sarnia area, many of whom for a good many years have been engaged in the industrial development there. They now complain that many of them are laid off on the first of April because those in charge of industry assume that they are going to take part in farming operations. It is pointed out that no farmer in the area has ever collected unemployment insurance.

There is another angle which does not seem fair. The third paragraph in the letter, explaining the act, says:

For example, if he becomes unemployed in January, 1953, and shows that during the offseasons in the winters of 1950-51 and 1951-52 combined he has paid a total of 180 contributions or more, he may qualify for benefit until March 31, 1953, or for such part thereof as the number of contributions he has paid entitles him to.

I do not believe the problem can be settled properly until we have some further explanation of the meaning of "off-season". Let us take the case of the man who has made unemployment insurance payments for several years, as many of these people have. This man we will say is let out on March 31. Would the minister explain his position after that date? We will assume, first of all, that he is not what would be described as a fulltime farmer. He is in a position to work even in the months of April or May, and undoubtedly could have someone take care of what small numbers of stock he may have. If this man is let out on March 31, and his unemployment insurance does not apply at that time, I think he is receiving unfair treatment-and I hope the minister will agree with me.

I am not suggesting that this would apply to a full-scale farmer, but I am referring only to those people who make it part of their business to farm part of the year, and to work in industry as much as they can. Those are the only points I wish to raise, in the hope that the minister will refer to them when he speaks again.

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

Wilbert Ross Thatcher

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

Mr. W. Ross Thaicher (Moose Jaw):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to say, in common with the other hon. members who have spoken, including the hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Johnston), that I support the five amendments before us today. I believe however there is an additional amendment which should have been brought in at this time. This would increase the coverage of people in my constituency who otherwise would be available for farm work, but who are most reluctant to go out on farms because they cannot receive unemployment insurance. I believe that, as a result of this, farm production in Canada today is suffering. These people cannot get the insurance automatically.

In company with other hon. members who have spoken, I would ask the minister to tell us what consideration has been given to extending the provisions of the act so that it would take in agricultural workers generally. Certainly if the government would give that consideration I believe a great deal would be done by way of increasing our dairy production, as well as other production on the farms.

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

June 10, 1952