February 29, 1968

PC

Philip Bernard Rynard

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Rynard:

We had better change it right here, because if parliament does not control these things the people have no effective representation.

Orillia is a town with a population close to

20,000 and the population of Midland is around 15,000. The minister says that centralization is necessary. I talked to him about this. He and I are on friendly terms and we discussed the matter. When I was through I still thought he was stubborn. Perhaps he would like me to use a more polite word and say he was firm. He said that centralization was necessary in the interests of economy and efficiency, that the computer age was here. When we look at the record of this government in the field of expenditure, most of us would doubt the wisdom and economy of what has been done. It is strange to note that out of 41 offices closed, two were in the Simcoe area.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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LIB

John Robert (Jack) Nicholson (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. Nicholson:

Again I do not like to interrupt but, as a matter of privilege, I am sure the hon. member would not want to go on record as saying that only 41 offices were closed. Over a hundred, perhaps several hundred, have been closed.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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PC

Philip Bernard Rynard

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Rynard:

Yes, I will correct that statement. I was reading the last figure I had here.

I have a list. Eighteen offices were closed across Canada in 1965, 47 were closed in 1966 and 41 more in 1967, making a total of more than 100 offices. I was referring to the 1967 figure. Will more bureaucratic control produce the advantages which are claimed? All

that has happened so far is an increase in the cost to the taxpayers. As I say, it is strange that out of the 41 offices closed last year two were in the Simcoe area. I do not think there was anything political about the decision. One of the offices was in Orillia where the rate of unemployment is higher than average. I pointed this out to the minister and so did the town council of Orillia in a brief which they presented. The council said a great many people would be inconvenienced. Is it really the function of governments to inconvenience the people? People are being put to the trouble of driving up to 42 miles one way in that riding at considerable expense to themselves. If anyone says this is not the case, I have example after example showing that it has happened. I shall not take up the time of the house by citing them but I will give them privately to the hon. gentleman if he wishes.

The submission says that many of the residents require personal assistance in making their applications because of language difficulty. This is true and 1 can substantiate it from letters I have received. It says that many of the residents require personal assistance because of their age or lack of education. Some are without transportation. Every one of these statements is correct. If the minister wants proof I will be glad to furnish it. People in the areas affected have come to the conclusion that the authorities do not believe in bringing the service to them but rather in taking it away. After the events of the past week when we witnessed the defiance of parliament on blue Monday, we can understand that the government has lost touch with the people. It is a regrettable attitude. The hon. member who represents the Liberal party in York-Humber (Mr. Cowan) indicated that the cabinet and the Prime Minister did not pay much attention even to their own supporters. Well, the time will come when the electors will settle these matters.

Now I should like to ask the minister whether any senior members of the commission's staff, say those with five years service or more, have quit because of the reorganization in the area I have mentioned. How many people engaged in the unemployment insurance service were forced to move? How many could not find suitable accommodation and were obliged to drive 50 miles to work? How much money was saved by the new arrangements? I point out that on the other side of the coin there is the inconvenience caused to applicants and the money and time spent in

February 29, 19B8

travel. All the people in my riding are in favour of reducing expenses but when we have services taken away from us, when we have taxes going up and the cost of living going up, we can only wonder about the wisdom of the minister in doing this.

[DOT] (4:00 p.m.)

Before this debate closes I would like the minister to tell us how long it will be before the central office he set up to replace the other two offices in the area will be closed? When it does close, will the people have to go to Toronto? If this is the march of time then let the minister set up a staff in Toronto and centralize the service but at least leave one person in each of the offices at Orillia and Midland and computerize the operation through the central office.

How logical and how practical is the minister's thinking? If we were to carry this approach through to a definite conclusion we could apply it to cars, boots, machinery equipment and all the other things that we use and buy. Supplies of these articles for my area could be centralized in the city of Toronto and distributed from there. No doubt the price would be cheaper but the over-all cost would be great. You would no longer have small cities and towns with their professional and business people. The effect would be to destroy them.

I now wish to deal with a question that strikes home to a good many people. I speak of the problems of men 65 years of age and over when they seek unemployment insurance benefits. I have in mind one man who is about 66 years old. He had always contributed to the unemployment insurance fund and never drew benefit from it. Now he has been laid off work because he is over 65 years of age and even though he is physically and mentally fit he cannot get another job. He has been told that there is no job available for him. He is not wanted in the work force any more.

Then there is the other side of the picture.

I am thinking of a man aged 65 years old who suffers a coronary attack and after a time tries to go back to work but cannot work. When his unemployment insurance runs out he has to go on welfare if he has no other source of funds. This is one of the saddest facts of life. Many of our citizens are capable of working at 65 or 75. What kind of society have we got when we say that a man's age is the determining factor in employment? Do we not need the brain he has developed over the years? I can cite no better example than that

Unemployment Insurance Act wonderful man in the other chamber who has celebrated his ninetieth birthday, a man who could come into this house and take his place in it any day.

I say, let us get off our high horse. Nobody should be finished and written off at the age of 65 if he is mentally and physically fit. Let us look after properly the fellows under 65 years of age who are not able to work. When unemployment insurance was introduced in 1941, in principle it was for the benefit of those who ran the risk of seasonal unemployment. Today the minister is changing the rules. It looks to me as if this legislation is now going to cover everybody. We are changing the principle. In other words, the minister is bringing in modified welfare.

I now wish to speak about the farming situation. I am not going to take up the time of the house by speaking at length on it. Possibly on clause by clause examination of the bill I will have more to say about it. A great many farmers are disturbed about unemployment insurance. On dairy farms and beef farms work goes on the year round. The people who work on those farms object to paying unemployment insurance contributions and the farmers or operators of the farms object to paying them. They are altogether different from the cash crop farmer. Yet no distinction is made.

When did you ever hear of a man being unemployed on a dairy farm? If a dairy farm employee quits it is almost impossible to find somebody to take his place. Why should this legislation be compulsorily applied to these people? This is a complete departure from the insurance principle of 1941. I shall have more to say about this matter when the bill is being discussed in committee. If the minister would like to talk to me in the meantime about the possibility of putting somebody back in the office at Orillia and in the office at Midland I would be glad to talk to him and show him some of the letters I have received.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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NDP

Norman Edward Fawcett

New Democratic Party

Mr. Norman Fawcett (Nickel Belt):

Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention to take up too much of the time of the house or to hold up this amending bill because we in this party realize the value of it. As my colleague the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Howard) has said, we accept this legislation because at this time with the increase in the cost of living we certainly feel there should be an increase in unemployment insurance benefits. However, also like my colleague I believe the time is long overdue for major amendments to the

February 29. 1968

Unemployment Insurance Act act and to the administration of certain parts of it.

I commend the minister for extending eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits to those whose total yearly earnings do not exceed $7,800. When I was first elected to office the majority of the complaints I received about unemployment insurance came from people who had been elevated to what could be called semi-supervisory positions and as a result unemployment insurance premiums were not deducted from their wages because then they were salaried people whose incomes were about the $5,460 mark. These men still wished to be covered by unemployment insurance because in a sense their new positions were only temporary. Any lay-off would mean that they would be sent back to their former positions, and if they lost their employment altogether they would lose a considerable portion of their benefits. I certainly commend the minister for increasing eligibility to the $7,800 mark because I think this is a very good move.

[DOT] (4:10 p.m.)

My colleague the hon. member for Timis-kaming (Mr. Peters) raised a point with which I agree concerning the separation of the national employment service from the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Act. Recently in respect of an appeal I asked whether there was any indication that the applicant had refused to take any kind of job which had been offered to him in the field with which he was familiar. I was informed that the officials were not concerned about this but were only involved with the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Act. I believe there should be a closer tie-in between the employment service and the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Act.

I would be the first to agree that there are abuses of the unemployment insurance fund. We all know this. In any program of this nature there are bound to be abuses. However, because of these abuses I feel that many people who are legitimately entitled to receive benefits from the unemployment insurance fund find it difficult to qualify for benefits. My colleague the hon. member for Skeena referred to section 54 with regard to the matter of disqualification. He cited some of the experiences he has had in this connection.

I should like to direct the minister's attention to one case in which I was involved recently. I should not like to suggest that this

(Mr. Fawcett.]

person was deliberately led into the position of being disqualified but I believe that certain questions directed to her may have been responsible for her disqualification. Perhaps I might give an outline of the case. It had to do with a lady who had been employed in a fairly heavily populated area where it was not too difficult to obtain employment. She had been working for a considerable period of time and had been contributing to the unemployment insurance fund. When her employment ceased she was unable to obtain any other employment in that area. I presume the main reason was that it was the fall of the year when there was not too much work available in the line she was following.

When this lady went to register for unemployment insurance she was notified that she was disqualified because she had restricted herself so far as employment was concerned. The only way in which she had restricted herself was that she had stated it was impossible for her to get to Sudbury some 20 miles distant for seven o'clock in the morning because there was no bus service which would get her there for that hour. I believe this is a ridiculous situation. She lived in an area where work had previously been provided for her. Why should she be disqualified simply because there did not happen to be a suitable transportation service which would get her to Sudbury for seven o'clock in the morning?

I believe there is a need for better public relations between those who administer the Unemployment Insurance Act and the people who contribute to the unemployment insurance fund. There seems to be a belief on the part of some of the administrators that they are doling out some kind of charitable fund rather than administering an insurance fund into which these people have been paying. I do not suggest that all the administrators are guilty of this but I am quite sure some of them do take that attitude. As a result some people actually do not apply for unemployment insurance when they are legitimately entitled to it because they feel they may be degrading themselves by asking for charity rather than for something which under the law is rightfully theirs.

I believe that more information in respect of unemployment insurance should be available to the people. I fully realize that some information is available. It is true that many people do not try to acquaint themselves with their rights under the act. By the same token, however, too many administrators do not

February 29, 1968

seem to be concerned about this and do not do anything in an effort to enlighten these people. As a result they are completely lost. I believe that many of these administrators should realize that this is an insurance fund into which people pay and therefore it should not be treated as if it were some sort of a charitable fund.

I believe it was my colleague the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Winch) who referred to people with partial physical disabilities and those who are receiving pensions and cannot receive unemployment insurance benefits. I have not had too much difficulty in respect of pensioners provided they stated they were available for employment any place and were in good physical condition. I do not have any argument in that regard but I do have an argument in respect of people who are partially physically disabled.

There are many people who are perhaps unable to dig ditches or do other types of heavy work but are able to engage in other types of employment. There are people over age 65 who, because of the type of employment they had previously, receive very little, if any, pension. I believe a second look should be taken at the situation in which they find themselves. If they are available for employment as watchmen, security guards, gatemen or something of that nature, even if such employment is not available they should be entitled to unemployment insurance benefits because many of them have paid into the fund ever since it came into existence.

When I rose to speak I indicated that I did not intend to say very much. I thought that perhaps some of the problems in which I have been involved were unique but after listening to what has been said I find that they are fairly general in nature. I certainly commend the minister for bringing in this amendment to the act which provides for increased benefits. I should also like to say to him, however, that like my colleague the hon. member for Skeena I believe it is high time the whole act was revamped because so far as I am concerned there are altogether too many holes in it.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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RA

Charles-Eugène Dionne

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Charles-Eugene Dionne (Kamouraska):

Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss in failing to take part in this debate, because having been unemployed myself more than once, I am quite familiar with the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Act and with the problems which arise at times. I would also

Unemployment Insurance Act be remiss in not calling the attention of the house to certain facts which, in my opinion, should be corrected.

First of all, I must say I am in favour of this bill designed to readjust benefit rates. But it must nevertheless be admitted that this piece of legislation contains certain restrictions, as evidenced by three things. It involves something "contradictory" "compulsory" and "contributory."

What I find strange and wish to stress at once is the contradiction apparent in the bill. An increasing number of people are in favour of full employment and believe this possible. They try therefore to improve the Unemployment Insurance Act. I must point out right away this obvious contradiction. They should be honest enough to admit that full employment is practically impossible in a period of rapid development, when working methods are changed by automation, with the result that a certain percentage of workers are always out of work. Railway workers know something about it, and it is unfortunate that the expected and vaguely promised adjustment of benefits has been delayed so long.

You will agree that I could also mention many other classes of workers.

[DOT] (4:20 p.m.)

However, let us rather try to be logical in the face of the existing situation, and let us consider how the workers suffering from unemployment could be helped.

Since the passing of the Unemployment Insurance Act, more than twenty-five years ago, a number of changes have been made. In the majority of cases, it was mostly a matter of trying to secure the protection of the fund and providing employment for a growing number of government employees.

In 1942, the government's contributions and the dues paid by employers and employees were about $44 million and administration costs a little over $2 million, while unemployed workers received $27,752,000 in benefits.

And in 1962, twenty years later, the amount of contributions by government, employers and employees was a little over $325 million, the benefits paid were over $400 million with $45 million in administration costs. This is now big business, and a lot of money changes hands.

The proposed amendments to Bill No. C-197 are socialistic in spirit: to extend coverage of the Unemployment Insurance Act to all

February 29, 1968

Unemployment Insurance Act Canadians with a yearly income of up to $7,800. The government wants to include as many people as possible in the compulsory contribution system.

There is nothing in Bill No. C-197 providing for changes to be made in the established methods of making more flexible the eligibility requirements of an unemployed worker. The protection of the fund is first provided for.

The rate of benefits shall increase in proportion to the gains made by the worker. Salaries, in many regions called economically underprivileged areas, are generally low. The increase in benefits will not therefore be proportional to the increase in the cost of living.

I am not against an adjustment in the rates of dues, benefits and non deducted gains. However, one must not forget that the principal aim of an unemployment insurance act is to help the unemployed. Noting that those who prepared Bill No. C-197 seem to have taken great pains to protect the fund rather than the unemployed, I conclude that this protective spirit will reveal itself especially through the inspectors of the commission who are often inclined to take a chance on spending $100 in an attempt to find that a poverty stricken unemployed has received $5 or $10 too much in benefits.

To my mind, the most important thing the government should do, first of all, instead of paralysing construction through higher interest rates and taxes on building materials, is to undertake vast construction programs and build hospitals, old peoples' homes, rehabilitation centres for the handicapped of all ages and research centres.

The implementation of such programs would contribute to reducing unemployment and would be more in order than the introduction of medicare which will not give the people of this country one single additional doctor or hospital bed. How many other useful projects could be undertaken to reduce considerably the effects of that social evil which is called unemployment. Whether it be occasional, fractional, seasonal or chronic-those are the new words we have found since the act was passed in 1946-an unemployment period is always demoralizing for its victims.

That is why we should have an act, clearly drafted, with rules to enable understanding civil servants-I know there are some, I know many of them-to really help the unemployed through a humane application of a so-called social law.

High officials, civil servants, at middle or lower echelons, would do well to remember that they are the servants of the people and not their tyrants, that the people are individuals and not robots; in short, that the people pay them and that they expect from them services and not trouble.

A better act might keep them from evading the law of gravity, and let them keep both feet on the ground as well as keep them from getting swelled heads, which at times leads some of them to think too highly of themselves, with the result that the unemployed experience serious difficulties.

Not too long ago, we intervened through various means, including representations from local organizations, with a view to avoiding the concentration of unemployment offices in large centres. One of my colleagues pointed this out a while ago and I know it leads to inconvenience.

Mr. Speaker, this plan goes completely against the economic decentralization talked about when the designated area scheme was set up. While the government asks the industry to settle there, these same people would take the employees away from these areas.

The bill proposes to extend the act to cover agricultural workers. I fully approve of this decision, but it will be necessary to inform the unemployed of the procedure to be followed. I think the employees in the local offices can best answer the many requests for information.

Certain senior officials often proclaim that a high percentage of unemployed workers are without work because they do not have a grade 5, 6 or 7 education. However, the procedure to be followed in implementing the plan is unrealistic because it requires unemployed workers to fill out complicated forms which some officials take pleasure in drawing up in ever increasing numbers. To give an example of the kind of form which an unemployed person has to fill out, in various circumstances, I will mention a few from an average list I have here. These forms are sent to the unemployed and are sometimes difficult to fill out. Here are a few:

Statement by the claimant;

Application for unemployment insurance benefits by mail;

Request for additional information;

Notice of incomplete request for benefits;

Report of claimant by mail;

Notice of incomplete report;

Application for employment by mail;

February 29, 1968

Request ior extension of periods of eligibility;

Request for antedating a claim;

Amendment of social insurance registers;

Amendment to social insurance registers;

Questionnaire for farmers;

Request for insurance booklet;

Application for family support rates;

Family dependent certificate;

Notice to farmers.

Moreover, something else has been devised. It is a new card, about 3| by 5J inches. The other day, I found out for myself that there were 56 punched holes in those cards. Forms are made smaller; there are fewer written items perhaps but holes are punched in the forms. There are a series of holes and in many places, people find it difficult to write what they want.

If positions in the public service relating to unemployment insurance are added, as well as certain titles of officials, I submit that this is not likely to clarify things in this complex act. For instance, I have here the titles of officials in the board of referees. The "Supervisor of the decisions section of the claims operations division, Unemployment Insurance Commission," Assistant's assistant to the chief registrar, national registration branch, Department of Labour. It is easy to imagine that when a poor unemployed writes to this official, he needs a large enough envelope to write all that.

I remember something else-and this is a very important point that I had the opportunity of raising in this house and which I emphasize once again today-because I have before me an article written by myself in 1962 and which was published in the newspaper La Souche. It concerns a problem which is still with us, the possibility for Canadian citizens working in American territory to take advantage of a given social legislation. This question has been with us for a long time. I know that some officials of the Canadian government endeavoured to have contacts, or at least, we were assured more than once that contacts had been established. However, I am surprised that no solution can be found, and the conclusion I had come to in 1962, when I was at the head of local 2817, as chairman of that labour organization, and I wrote the following which is still true today and appropriate to the present circumstances. I quote:

[DOT] (4:30 p.m.)

Much satisfaction seems to be felt when neighbourliness is cited as an example; this is quite well, as long as the comprehensive outlook of the

Unemployment Insurance Act authorities does not make them forget the thousands of residents near the Canadian and American borders who cannot take advantage of a welfare legislation due to lack of understanding.

It must be noted that an agreement is in force since March 6 and 12, 1952, between Canada and all the southern neighbouring states, except Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire and Alabama. The failure of those states to be party to those agreements is especially disturbing, since a great number of Canadian workers, especially in Maine and New Hampshire are thus deprived of the substantial benefits of a welfare legislation, which should normally apply to all workers.

If the Canadian lumbermen have no further interest in seasonal jobs which they can obtain in the United States, they will remain in Canada and increase the number of those out of jobs.

Of course, a serious effort is necessary in this respect.

Now, I shall return for a while to the question of implementation methods. I have in hand a copy of a letter dating back to 1962 which will give you further information in this regard. At that time, I was greatly concerned about this-just as I am now-because we have thousands of working people who live in the parishes along the border of Maine and New Hampshire, and so I had written to a member of this house in this regard. I shall quote from his reply:

I believe the only development is the report which has been prepared following a survey conducted among Canadian employees and Canadian lumbermen employers by the Maine authorities. The main feature of the report is the disclosure that the insurance fund of Maine, which is now $26,698,000 will be totally used up within a few years, as benefits paid to Canadian lumbermen are estimated at $1,567,932.

Thus within 12 to 15 years, the unemployment insurance fund of Maine is expected to run dry. That is the problem. They are afraid to touch to the fund for fear it will run dry.

The fund presents a problem; it is always so when money and dollars are involved. The hon. member concluded:

I do not know to what conclusion we must come, and whether it will eventually be possible to reach an agreement, as happened with the other American states.

If the fund were not involved, I think this would work; even if this problem exists, it would probably be possible for the Unemployment Insurance Commission and the Department of Labour to try and find a formula which would enable the employee, at any time after he has completed his period of employment, to indicate how many weeks he has worked. He is ready to pay his contributions and it should be possible, I think, to

7116 COMMONS DEBATES February 29, 1968

Unemployment Insurance Act come to an agreement which would spare him a series of inconveniences since, not being eligible for the benefits, he must count only-on unemployment assistance or social assistance. Therefore, we should try to find a satisfactory formula and solve this problem.

Right this day, at noon, I had the opportunity to write a letter for one of my constituents who was complaining that he could not draw unemployment insurance benefits. He had been declared unavailable, because last fall, towards the end of November, he had suffered an accident. His doctor gave him a certificate stating that he is able to go back to work. Now, the unemployment insurance officer, who has not examined the worker- it is exactly what I am saying in this notice of appeal to the board of referees-decided that the worker is unavailable for work, unable to do the work that should be done at this time of the year. The strange thing about it all is that, at this period of the year, the officers know very well that this seasonal worker, a lumberman, has no work available because all operations in the bush are finished everywhere for the season. Here is proof that the officers are overzealous in trying to deprive a lumberman of unemployment insurance benefits by offering him a possible or probable job in the bush.

I remember that four or five years ago, payment of benefits had been suspended for close to 300 workers in the Kamouraska riding and a good many in Temiscouata, in fact up to Rimouski. It almost created a scandal. Why? Because a high official of the commission had come at one time to the Riviere-du-Loup office and had felt that there were too many unemployed in the district.

It is not the people's fault that they live in an economically underprivileged area. It is not necessary for an official to leave the Montreal office and try to penalize all those who are having unemployment trouble. Of course, that situation has been settled; but I have seen government employees working nights to find the names and addresses of unemployed workers and sending them employment offers. Then they had to work nights too in order to pay those people their benefits, for the official's decision had obviously fallen through. We met a high official of the Department of Labour, who was the chief commissioner of the Unemployment Insurance Commission. He understood the problem and the matter was settled advantageously. But why let these workers suffer a

month because they have problems due to lack of income, because they were unemployed?

Mr. Speaker, I now conclude my remarks because I did not want to speak too long on the subject since I am anxious, like most hon. members, to see this bill passed. However, I cannot resume my seat without stressing a particular point which quite impressed me.

In passing, I wish to mention at once that even if I come from the Kamouraska area, this does not mean necessarily that the examples which I give bear the signature of the officials in the offices of my area. Not at all. There are officials in the Montreal offices and in many areas. Having been in contact with workers right across the province for ten years, from 1952 to 1962, I happen to receive correspondence from almost everywhere.

I shall not mention the place where this letter came from, but the fact remains that it was written by an official on a letterhead of the commission following a decision of the board of referees. The official in question had rendered a decision by which the unemployed who was awaiting benefits was disqualified. However, the unemployed, faced with his problems, appealed to the board of referees where his situation was discussed. In its conclusion, the board says this.

It is absolutely disgusting. One would never think that people could say such things, but to write them, on top of that!

During their discussions, the members of the board of referees recognize that the reason why this man stopped working may be a valid one from the human point of view, but not in the eyes of the law, since it is considered to be a personal reason. That is why they have no alternative but to uphold the decision of the unemployment insurance office and reject the appeal.

I would suggest to the hon. Minister of Labour (Mr. Nicholson) that he should be careful in choosing officials who have to make decisions. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, there are very good, highly competent and understanding officials-I know some. On the other hand, I know others who are not qualified to do the work they do and who come to conclusions that are very unfavourable to an unemployed man who has to contend with poverty. Those are the ones that should be watched.

February 29, 1968

[DOT] (4:40 p.m.)

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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PC

Melvin James McQuaid

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Melvin McQuaid (Kings):

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying that I believe this amending legislation will undoubtedly please the majority of Canadian workers. So far as I know this is the first time in nine years that an amendment has been introduced to the Unemployment Insurance Act resulting in increased benefits to employees. This, of course, is only as it should be because of the increase in the cost of living during the last number of years.

However, having said that 1 feel that at this time I must voice some severe criticism with respect to the operations of some of our unemployment insurance offices. I am highly critical of any program designed to close regional offices throughout this country which up to this time have performed very valuable services for those people who have been obliged to apply for unemployment insurance benefits. I have had examples brought to my attention of people who were unemployed, in need of benefits, entitled to receive benefits and who applied on the sixteenth of December but had not received one cheque by the seventh of February. I suggest this is nothing short of criminal because these people needed the money.

Up until the time the change was introduced by the commission, people were getting their money on time. However, by reason of the fact that the commission decided to close regional offices these delays have been taking place. The minister has attempted, in reply to the hon. member for Simcoe East (Mr. Ry-nard), to avoid responsibility for the closing of these offices. To what point is our parliamentary system drifting, Mr. Speaker? Surely the minister cannot come in here and disclaim responsibility to parliament for the closing of these offices. He is the man who is in charge of the Unemployment Insurance Commission.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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LIB

John Robert (Jack) Nicholson (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. Nicholson:

Mr. Speaker, rising on a question of privilege, may I say that I am sure the hon. member would not want a statement of that kind to go unchallenged on the record. Has he read the act? The minister has no responsibility for the operations of the commission. I make that statement unequivocally. Parliament has allocated the responsibility to the commission. I am sure the hon. member would not want a statement such as he has made to go without correction, if such is not the case.

Unemployment Insurance Act

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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PC

Melvin James McQuaid

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McQuaid:

I believe it goes without saying that it is the minister who answers to-parliament for the operation of the Unemployment Insurance Commission. I ask the minister through you, Mr. Speaker, why, when a complaint was filed with him with regard to the closing of one of these regional offices, did he answer that complaint not as Minister of Labour but simply as "John R. Nicholson"? The letter was written on the letterhead of the Unemployment Insurance Commission. He did not reply to this complaint as Minister of Labour; he replied to it on the letterhead of the Unemployment Insurance Commission and signed not as Minister of Labour but as John R. Nicholson.

I have here a letter written on May 31, 1967, by the minister to the president of the Summerside board of trade. The board complained, and I suggest rightly so, about the closing of the regional unemployment insurance office in Summerside. We now only have one regional office for the whole province of Prince Edward Island. Does the minister suggest that those who are required to draw unemployment insurance benefits can be effectively served by one office in a province? Does he realize that people who have to file unemployment insurance claims or have business to conduct with the Unemployment Insurance Commission, and who live in the western end of Prince Edward Island, have to travel 150 miles to get to the nearest regional office? Does this make for efficiency? How can the minister possibly justify the closing of that office?

This matter was raised with him by the board of trade and he answered, as I say, on the letterhead of the Unemployment Insurance Commission on May 31, 1967. The following is the explanation the minister gave, and I am quoting directly from the letter:

The commission is in the process of consolidating and centralizing its operations and has already discontinued its activities in many areas and transferred its operations to other localities.

This is true, Mr. Speaker, but that is not an explanation for the closing of an office when the nearest office is then 150 miles away. The letter continues:

The commission is no longer responsible for the administration of the National Employment Service and the need for local offices is considerably reduced as mail service can be used extensively to carry out its operations.

I suggest that mail service cannot be used effectively by all those people who want to

February 29, 1968

Unemployment Insurance Act communicate with the Unemployment Insurance Commission and I believe the commission recognized that fact when, in its 1966 reports, it had this to say:

The commission continued arrangements whereby agents are appointed to complete all the necessary documents in connection with applications for unemployment insurance benefits.

The commission believes that agents should be appointed to assist the people in making application for unemployment insurance benefits. Are these people expected to travel 150 miles to get this help in making application? The report continues:

In this way, applicants who cannot conveniently visit a commission office because of their location are able to make their application with a minimum of delay. This system substantially reduces the amount of correspondence with postal applicants.

According to this report the commission apparently wanted to reduce the amount of correspondence with postal applicants. However, the minister said on May 31, in reply to a complaint from the Summerside board of trade, that mail service could now be used extensively to carry out these operations. The letter continues:

[DOT] (4:50 p.m.)

In implementing its program the commission has improved its method of operation and has developed simplified procedures. The necessity for personal contact and inquiries is thereby reduced and insured persons and employers are not adversely affected as a result of the commission's policy.

This is not in accordance with the facts, Mr. Speaker. People do require assistance in filling out these forms, and I suggest that it is the responsibility of the commission and of the government to provide it. Although this policy may save a little money, nevertheless the Unemployment Insurance Commission is an agency of government. Its function is not only to save money. One of its most important functions-and this applies to every agency of government-is to provide the people of this country with a service for which they are paying in the form of taxation. I suggest that requiring applicants to travel 150 miles in order to visit their nearest regional Unemployment Insurance Commission office is not providing service. The letter continues:

The commission's objective has always been to provide a prompt and efficient service to those applying for benefit and it was with this aim, as well as with a view to economy, that certain changes were introduced-

I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that this is no excuse for not providing service. This is not improving efficiency; it is cutting down

efficiency. It certainly does not give the people of Canada, the taxpayers of Canada, those services to which they are properly entitled under a properly administered unemployment insurance scheme.

The hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Howard) cited examples of interpretations of the section of the act that requires a person to prove his or her availability for work. He brought to the notice of the house instances of investigators employed by the Unemployment Insurance Commission actually putting words into the mouths of those who apply for unemployment insurance benefits, words that he felt and which I also feel they did not intend to use. I have also had examples of this practice that I should like to bring to the attention of the minister.

I have in my files a complaint from a woman who was interviewed by an investigator from the commission. Several months ago she had applied for unemployment insurance benefits and in her application had stated she was not available for work. That was correct; at that time she was not available for work. However, later she went to work and eventually was laid off as a result of a shortage of work. Once more she applied for unemployment benefits. The investigator came to her house but instead of sitting down and asking her to fill out the form he simply said to her: "I suppose there are no changes in the statement you made when you last applied for unemployment benefits?" Not fully realizing the significance of the question she replied that there were not. The investigator entered that answer on her form, packed his bag, left the house, and as a result she was advised a short time later that she was disqualified from receiving benefits because she was not available for work.

It is all very well to say that this woman had the right of appeal, but I suggest there are a lot of people in Canada today applying for unemployment insurance benefits who do not fully understand their rights in this connection. Not having anybody to advise them and being unable conveniently to travel 150 or 160 miles to the nearest regional office, they suffer the loss of their unemployment insurance benefits. I suggest that this is not as it should be.

Apparently the Unemployment Insurance Commission take great pride, and I think with some justification, in the fact that they are saving the taxpayer money as a result of the work of their investigators who travel all over the country. According to the 1966

February 29, 1968

report, in February, 1966 15 new enforcement officer positions were added to the enforcement establishment, making a total of 149. It may also be advisable at this time, instead of appointing new enforcement officers, for the commission to appoint people who can help honest citizens fill out their forms properly so that they do not disqualify themselves from receiving benefits.

These are some of the matters of which I am highly critical, Mr. Speaker. I think it is now time for the minister or for somebody else, if the minister is not responsible, to bring to the attention of the commission the complaints we have been making while these amendments to the act are being discussed. Certainly it is time that somebody took the matter in hand and did something to protect the interests of many people who unfortunately are not in a position to protect themselves.

Although I am in full sympathy with the amendments to the act, there are aspects involving the present administration of unemployment insurance that very definitely require improving. I point out to the minister, and I hope he brings this to the attention of the commission, that some of the employees of the regional offices of the Unemployment Insurance Commission are not courteous to the public. I have known cases where people went to these offices and were simply given the runaround. They were unable to get a satisfactory answer to their complaints and they left the offices no wiser than when they went. This should not be allowed to happen. These employees are servants of the public. Many of them do their very best but there are some who do not, and I am highly critical of them. These are some of the matters to which I suggest the minister should give some attention and do his utmost to try to correct.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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NDP

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

New Democratic Party

Mr. H. W. Herridge (Kootenay West):

Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a few brief comments on these amendments. I am sure there are a good many working people throughout Canada who are very pleased that we are now discussing this important legislation.

We endorse the principle of this bill and are very pleased to see these amendments. However, I do want to bring to the attention of the minister that the divorcement of manpower and Unemployment Insurance Commission offices has not been very well received in my constituency, and I promised to bring this fact to the attention of the minister at the first opportunity. As I think he is

Unemployment Insurance Act aware, various organizations representing several sections of the community have protested the separation of these two departments. I never quite understood the reason for it because the work of these departments is so interrelated and deals with problems that are common to both departments.

The present situation causes a great deal of inconvenience. In my constituency some communities are 150 miles or more from the nearest unemployment insurance office. I am not going to give examples. I thought the hon. member for Timiskaming (Mr. Peters) and the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Howard) dealt very well with that aspect so there is no need for me to repeat what they said in this connection. However, there are people in my constituency living up to 175 miles away from the nearest unemployment insurance office or manpower office and very often they require advice. For example, in some cases they are not quite certain how to fill out application forms, what the expression "availability for employment" means, and things of that nature. I think it is particularly necessary that these people have an opportunity to complete their applications correctly or to file their appeals properly. Under present conditions it is physically impossible for them to do so.

[DOT] (5:00 p.m.)

In the meantime, would it not be possible for the Unemployment Insurance Commission to provide officers who could visit some of these communities once a week and assist these people. For example, an officer could visit Nakusp which is approximately 130 miles away from the unemployment insurance office in Castlegar. An officer might also go to Kaslo which is about the same distance away, and periodically one might go to the North Lardeau country where many are employed but where the population is less dense. These officers could advise people how to complete application forms and enter appeals. I should like the minister to reply to this suggestion when he speaks at the conclusion of the debate on second reading.

I think there is a great opportunity for an improvement in public relations on the part of the commission. I suggest it would be a good idea for some of its officials to address trade unions periodically on the subject of applying for unemployment insurance and the necessary procedures and forms. They could inform the unions about the law generally and about applications in detail. They could do the same with chambers of commerce,

February 29, 1968

Unemployment Insurance Act which largely represent employers' organizations, so that chambers of commerce would be well informed. They could also speak to various women's organizations, because women are just as involved as their husbands when it comes to the proper operation of this act.

That is all I wish to say at this time. I believe that following my suggestions would remedy many complaints in the meantime.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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LIB

Robert John (Bud) Orange

Liberal

Mr. R. J. Orange (Northwest Territories):

Mr. Speaker, I want to bring a couple of matters to the minister's attention. I acknowledge how farsighted the minister has been in bringing these amendments forward. I agree with the principle of increasing payments and coverage.

Until now it has been possible for Indian and Eskimo employees in our labour force not to be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. Two matters relating to the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Act as it affects northern Canada should be brought before the minister. One of them has to do with the regulations. In so many words they say that any person employed north of the sixtieth parallel of latitude whose livelihood is not ordinarily derived from insurable employment shall not necessarily be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This provision was first brought in around 1959, the intention being to encourage private concerns to employ Indians and Eskimos. But the provision has fulfilled its purpose and its effect now is to bring about, if I may term it this way, discrimination in reverse.

Construction companies which move to northern Canada for summer operations bring part of their labour force with them from the cities in the south but they will also hire some semi-skilled people locally. Most of these are hunters or trappers who because of their construction skills are hired by the construction companies. Sometimes they have jobs for six, eight, ten or 12 months at any one time. The point is that though they may be eligible for benefits their employers are taking advantage of that part of the regulations to which I referred. I ask the minister to take a hard look at those regulations to see if their purpose has not been fulfilled. I think we should give our Indian and Eskimo residents full benefits under this act just as if they lived south of the sixtieth parallel.

Another point deserves the minister's attention. Some hon. members speak of unemployment insurance offices being 150 miles from

certain towns. The unemployment insurance office closest to the sixtieth parallel is at Edmonton, about 450 miles away. If you go as far north as Inuvik you are talking about 1,300 or 1,400 miles. There may be an argument that not enough people live there to justify an office but I believe other factors ought to be considered. If we are to encourage private development in northern Canada the services of government must be available to private entrepreneurs as they would be in southern Canada. Inuvik is a long way from Edmonton. Granted, the mail service is reasonable but there is the question of dialogue to consider. It would be better for our people if an officer of the commission could be stationed in the capital of the Northwest Territories, Yellowknife. He would be in a good position to deal with the particular and peculiar problems which arise when private entrepreneurs operate in the north.

Another reason for having an officer there is that situations similar to the one in 1964 might arise again. One of our major mines in Yellowknife had a fire in the head frame which resulted in the mine and the mill having to be closed down for three or four months. I tried to get the Unemployment Insurance Commission to send an officer to Yellowknife to service applications as soon as possible since the situation affected not only individual workers but the entire community. The post office had application forms but naturally they disappeared quickly. With the help of the mine management and others in the community applications were forwarded to Edmonton in a hurry. Had it not been for the initiative of the local people, benefits might have been delayed more than they were.

The commission provides reasonable service in the northern part of Canada but it would help us to have an unemployment insurance office established there. People in isolated communities understand that there are problems but at least they would get to know what their benefits are and for how long they are entitled to them. I am thinking particularly of a man who worked for the federal government for a number of years as a school janitor. For some reason he left his job; he may have quit or had to leave. I do not know. But no one got around to telling him that because he had paid into the unemployment insurance fund for three or four years, he was entitled to benefits. That is the point I am trying to drive home

February 29, 1968

[DOT] (5:10 p.m.)

In conclusion, I hope the minister will examine the problem of the exemption in respect of Indians and Eskimos living north of the sixtieth parallel. It brings about a form of discrimination which I am sure the government never intended. An examination should be made of the act to determine how it can be made of maximum benefit to those living north of the sixtieth parallel, both by changing this regulation and by opening an office in the Northwest Territories.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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PC

Eric Stefanson

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Eric Stefanson (Selkirk):

Mr. Speaker, I intend to be brief. I believe there is need for the amendment before us having regard to the inflationary situation and the high cost of living at the present time.

The hon. member for Acadia (Mr. Horner) said yesterday that this legislation was originally based on the insurance principle but that principle has gradually disappeared. He suggested everyone would be happy if we could return to the insurance principle, and I think he was right. The hon. member for Simcoe East (Mr. Rynard) and the hon. member for Kings (Mr. McQuaid) referred specifically to the closure of offices. I do not know whether the closure of offices has led to greater efficiency but it has certainly caused inconvenience and expense to the public. In my own riding the only office in the constituency, that at Selkirk, has been closed, greatly to the inconvenience of people in that area.

I wish to refer now to the way in which workers in country areas are disqualified from benefit and, in doing so, to support what has been said in this connection by the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Howard) the hon. member for Kings and others. Disqualification is brought about in this way: an official calls on applicants and records them as answering one of the questions by saying they prefer to work in their own immediate area. If the area is designated as a restricted employment area, as is usually the case, benefits are withheld.

I am disturbed by this type of administration. If people can be disqualified on this basis I can only conclude that the act discriminates against workers in rural areas. Indeed, it seems to me that the only way in which people can be sure of their eligibility for benefit is by living in the large urban centres. Does the government want all our people to live in the cities? If not, I suggest to the minister that he and his senior officials should look carefully at the way in which

Unemployment Insurance Act workers are being disqualified in the rural parts of Canada. A number of individual cases have come to my notice. I do not intend to call attention to them on this occasion but I shall refer them to the minister personally later. I believe it is a serious mistake to disqualify people in rural areas on the grounds that they live in a restricted employment area. I submit the act ought to be administered in a different manner if people in all parts of Canada are to be treated fairly and justly.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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PC

James Ernest Pascoe

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. E. Pascoe (Moose Jaw-Lake Centre):

Mr. Speaker, the minister has been very patient and I shall be brief. Some of the points I wished to raise with regard to the need for local unemployment insurance offices have already been touched on by other speakers.

I am sure the minister has received letters which indicate there is a misunderstanding of the regulations as they apply to farm labour. At any rate, I have received such letters. The inclusion of farm workers under the act took effect on April 1, 1967. It was stated by the Department of Labour that all known farmers would be contacted by mail shortly after that date. Most farmers have by now been contacted by mail, I imagine. I emphasize the phrase "by mail" because I want to point out that farmers operate individually and in a great variety of ways and that the forwarding of information by mail is not always satisfactory. There is a desire for local offices where direct information could be obtained immediately rather than through correspondence.

The minister has told us that the decision to close some 100 local offices was made by the Unemployment Insurance Commission. I am asking him to bring the arguments he has heard today to the attention of the commission.

I am not sure how much experience or contact the minister has had with farming operations. He understands, of course, that in this modern age there is a demand for a variety of skills and training, for tractor and combine operators, livestock handlers and feeders, poultry and turkey raisers. Each of these lines of farm endeavour calls for separate training. I mention this in relation to a case which will emphasize two points I wish to bring out.

The situation I wish to describe concerns an experienced tractor and combine operator who worked for a farmer from April 1 to November 1, 1967. Naturally, there was very

7122 COMMONS

Unemployment Insurance Act little tractor work late in the fall and the tractor operator found himself out of a job. The farmer and his employer had kept the insurance book up to date. According to the tractor operator, when he applied for unemployment insurance later an official told him that livestock feeders were needed and he should take one of these jobs. But this man was an experienced tractor operator and he had no experience in raising livestock.

It also appeared there had been a mix-up involving the location of the insurance book. The book had been sent to a central office probably to enable some sort of computer operation to be carried out. The tractor man had applied for his benefits in December. After some correspondence with the Unemployment Insurance Commission I received a letter which stated in the last paragraph:

It is regrettable that Mr. Kessler's claim was delayed pending receipt of his insurance book. This difficulty has now been resolved and payment of benefit will be made to him without delay.

This strengthens the argument for direct contact through local offices. It also makes clear that an experienced tractor operator who contributes the necessary stamps during the summer months should be liable for benefit in the winter months if some comparable form of mechanical work is not available.

In conclusion I should like to draw the minister's attention to the brief which was presented to the government two or three days ago, I believe, by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. The minister may have been present on that occasion to hear it; I understand he was. I shall not repeat all the recommendations which were made. I merely point out that in regard to unemployment insurance we find this statement:

Resolved that this program as it applies to agriculture be the subject of future study and recommendation by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

[DOT] (5:20 p.m.)

I conclude by saying that fanners have problems with unemployment insurance that require further study, and I hope the minister will see to it that the officials of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture will be heard when the time arrives.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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PC

J.-H.-Théogène Ricard (Progressive Conservative Party Caucus Vice-Chair)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Theogene Ricard (Saini-Hyacinlhe-Bagot):

Mr. Speaker, I will speak briefly also, but I do not want to miss this opportunity to say a few words. First of all, I want to say that I am in favour of the principle of the bill.

[Mr. Pascoe.l

DEBATES February 29, 1968

As things are at present, with the high cost of living and the threat of inflation the unemployed surely need more benefits than they did some time ago.

I should like to add, on behalf of the labour force of Saint-Hyacinthe, how much we regret the decision to close the unemployment insurance office in our city.

At the time the decision was taken, the authorities of the municipality of Saint-Hyacinthe, the leaders of the CNTU local in Saint-Hyacinthe and myself made representations to the minister (Mr. Nicholson). We butted our heads against a stone wall, since no attention was paid to our representations which had one purpose only, the welfare of the labour class of Saint-Hyacinthe.

The minister and his colleague, the Minister of Manpower and Immigration (Mr. Mar-chand), also know that Saint-Hyacinthe is an industrial centre and that an unemployment insurance office had been established there during the first years following the coming into force of that legislation. The unemployed are thus subjected to endless inconvenience and vexation. They are compelled to travel some distance to draw their benefits or experience useless delays.

I should also like to support the representations which have been made here about the fact that some officials often give the impression that they are taking every possible means to deprive the unemployed of the benefits due them. I do not believe that it is on account of a lack of necessary information or because they are over-zealous. It must surely be because in many cases the officials have not the necessary information and as a result, the unemployed are deprived of unemployment insurance benefits.

I believe the hon. minister should endeavour to make sure that such conditions will not recur because they are positively detrimental to the unemployed workers. Being unemployed is distressing enough for a person that he should not be deprived of benefits that could help him provide for himself and his family.

By bringing such facts to the attention of the hon. minister he may be encouraged to give special consideration to the problem and to issue proper directives to his officers, so that they may give satisfaction to the workers.

I believe, like many others, that the purpose of the Unemployment Insurance Act must be to serve the public. We must not give

February 29, 1968

the impression that this law tends to disqualify those who want to avail themselves of its provisions, but that it must really be of service to the workers who are temporarily unemployed.

Such are, Mr. Speaker, the few observations I wanted to make, for the guidance of the hon. minister.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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LIB

Paul Tardif (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Tardif):

Order. If the minister speaks now he will close the debate.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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LIB

John Robert (Jack) Nicholson (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Hon. J. R. Nicholson (Minister of Labour):

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to thank all hon. members, who have contributed to this debate. Some very helpful and constructive suggestions have been made for improvement in the administration of the unemployment insurance program generally and I am happy to inform all hon. members through you, Mr. Speaker, if they do not already know it, that the chief commissioner of the unemployment commission and other officials have been in the gallery throughout the whole of the debate and they have had the benefit of hearing all the suggestions made by hon. members.

I might say that I am gratified, although not surprised, that all parties and groups in the house have signified approval in principle of the amendments contained in the bill. However, a great many members have expressed regret that the bill does not go farther and include more of the recommendations that were contained in the report of the Gill committee which completed its work some five years ago. In reply, I would point out that the recommendations of the Gill committee were very comprehensive, but hon. members will recall that they were made at a time of serious unemployment in Canada when the funds of the Unemployment Insurance Commission were exhausted. Those funds had to be replenished through special votes by the house on two different occasions. I am glad to say that conditions have changed since then, and while some of the recommendations of the Gill committee merit implementation, others require at least modification.

As has been stated on previous occasions in this house, the Gill committee report was referred some time ago to an interdepartmental committee. The government has had an interim report from that committee and the committee has been asked to study it further.

Unemployment Insurance Act I would like to inform hon. members that a comprehensive revision of this act, to include 50 per cent or maybe more of the recommendations made by the Gill committee, and the modified recommendations that may come out of the study being made by the interdepartmental committee, would involve months of study in this house. It would not be a simple piece of legislation. I am convinced it would require a minimum of three months study by this house, and probably much longer.

When the government was faced with this situation, realizing that there had been no change made to the act for a period of some nine years and that the scale of benefits is not realistic in view of the changes that have taken place in the economy over the last four or five years, it was our opinion that there could be no further delay and that at the least we would have to introduce without delay the amendments covered in this bill. I particularly felt a responsibility because on more than one occasion during the past 12 months I had assured hon. members that in this session of parliament I would introduce amendments along the lines covered in this bill now before us. That accounts for the fact that we have a relatively short, simple bill to take care of immediate requirements, with the assurance on the part of the government that a more detailed, a more comprehensive bill, an overhaul bill, if you want to so describe it, will be introduced at the earliest possible date.

Hon. members, who have expressed support in principle for the bill, have also raised some very interesting questions which I think call for brief comment on my part at this stage. For instance, the hon. member for Halifax (Mr. McCleave) referred to some calculations based on a table contained in clause 4 of the bill. In this connection I wish to assure the hon. member and others who are interested that the minor variances in the ratio, which the hon. member for Halifax noted, between benefits for people with dependants and benefits for people without dependants are due entirely to the fact that the figures were rounded out mathematically. In effect the amount is the same but there has been a mathematical rounding out. Column 2, for instance, progresses by increments of $3 and $4, while column 4 progresses by increments of $4 and $5.

[DOT] (5:30 p.m.)

I should like to assure hon. members that a study of the bill will show that there was no

February 29, 1968

Unemployment Insurance Act discrimination and no intention to discriminate against persons with dependants. A study of the bill will show that the people in the lowest income tax bracket benefit materially. The proportion of the benefit for persons with dependants has been maintained at 50 per cent or more of the new table which will apply when amendments to the act come into effect. This is in keeping with accepted unemployment insurance practice in many countries of the world including our neighbour to the south. Because it is included by them is no reason that we should accept it, but at least it is an indication that we are moving in ways which other countries consider to be fair and reasonable.

This table plus the new table of allowable earnings which can be earned while on claim means that the person with a dependant can earn up to 75 per cent of his gross wages up to the maximum laid down in the act. I consider this to be a reasonable protection unless there is a desire to encourage a man to stay away from work and draw unemployment insurance benefits.

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Comox-Alberni (Mr. Barnett) requested certain information which I am pleased to furnish. He asked for statistics concerning the status of the fund at the present time. I am happy to report that as of the end of the last fiscal year, March 31, 1967, the unemployment insurance fund had a credit of about $258 million. This is quite different from the situation we had a few years ago when it was necessary to replenish the fund in the period 1962 and 1963, the first two years that I was in this house. We can only estimate the condition of the fund at the end of this present fiscal year, since unemployment usually runs higher during the months of November through March. Five of these months are behind us, however, and present indications are that the fund will be just in excess of $300 million at the end of this fiscal year.

The hon. member for Comox-Alberni, the hon. member for Timiskaming (Mr. Peters), the hon. member for Simcoe East (Mr. Ry-nard), the hon. member for Kings (Mr. McQuaid), the hon. member for Kootenay West (Mr. Herridge) and also one of the last speakers, the hon. member for Moose Jaw-Lake Centre (Mr. Pascoe), all referred to the closing of some unemployment insurance offices. I believe that there has been some misunderstanding about this. Perhaps a little information on this subject might be helpful, not so much for members but for the information of the general public.

When the Unemployment Insurance Commission was first established the responsibility for the administration of the national employment service was delegated to the commission. The commission continued to perform that function until after the report of the Glassco royal commission was published. The Glassco commission studied the workings of the Unemployment Insurance Commission and felt that there was a conflict of interest between the national employment service and the Unemployment Insurance Commission. In its report the Glassco commission recommended that these two services be separated.

I was a member of an ad hoc cabinet committee which studied the recommendations of the Glassco commission and, if my memory serves me right, we recommended that this and several other recommendations contained in the Glassco commission report be implemented. As a result, at the beginning of the fiscal year, April 1, 1965, the two functions were separated. This was not done at the time the Department of Manpower and Immigration came into existence in December, 1965. It had been done some nine months earlier. As a result much of the work and the necessity for much of the staff in the unemployment insurance offices disappeared when this function was turned over to another branch of the government.

At the same time the commission, which is charged with the responsibility of administering this act efficiently and economically in the national interest, realized that a great advantage would accrue from the use of computers and other modern systems. The two were synchronized. There has been a closing of certain offices but there are manpower offices in most of these areas and there are officials of government who can furnish information to people who make application under the Unemployment Insurance Act and its regulations and they are happy to do so.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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PC

David Vaughan Pugh

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Pugh:

Mr. Speaker, the minister has said that there are officials who can furnish information. Of course they can. They have been trained to do this. I should like to ask whether it is part of their duty to supply this information.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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LIB

John Robert (Jack) Nicholson (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. Nicholson:

In some cases, yes. I might say, however, that I asked for a memorandum from the commission on this point. The chief commissioner has assured me that where offices of the Unemployment Insurance Commission have been closed they have made arrangements, when such action is required,

February 29, 1968

with representatives of other agencies of the government, in some cases employees of the manpower centres, to supply such information. Arrangements also are being made for a free telephone service for people who wish to call the nearest U.I.C. office.

This afternoon the hon. member for Kings spoke of the hardships which exist in the province of Prince Edward Island. He mentioned that there is only one office on the island. I am sorry the hon. member is no longer present in the house because I would like to point out to him that in Prince Edward Island, for the type of service to which the hon. member for Okanagan Boundary (Mr. Pugh) referred, eight agencies have been established. These agencies are willing and anxious to continue this service and if individual members of the house will either write to me or to the commission itself information can be obtained as to just where these or similar agencies are located.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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PC

David Vaughan Pugh

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Pugh:

This is for the dissemination of information. I can understand that. I know that the personnel in these offices have been more than helpful to those who request information, but I am wondering whether this applies also to the processing of claims.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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LIB

John Robert (Jack) Nicholson (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. Nicholson:

It is any type of information which might be required by an ordinary Canadian citizen who needs help or advice in filling in unemployment insurance forms. I might say that it is impossible and unnecessary to have offices in every community in Canada. The hon. member for the Northwest Territories (Mr. Orange) showed how difficult or impossible it is in areas as large as those found in the two territories and in some of the provinces of Canada. From reports that I receive weekly, and some times more often than that, from the commission and my department, there is an indication that, while many unemployment insurance offices have been closed as a result of the use of computers and other new services, this new system is working more efficiently than before.

[DOT] (5:40 p.m.)

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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PC

Wallace Bickford (Wally) Nesbitt

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nesbitt:

Would the minister permit a question? Will he consider taking a second look at the reports he receives from his officials regarding what is taking place in southwestern Ontario which is a very heavily industrialized area? From personal knowledge I can assure the minister that in the last three months I have received at least 15 times the number of complaints I received during the previous 15 years I have been a member,

Unemployment Insurance Act mainly because applicants do not know how to fill out forms. They cannot obtain information because they cannot direct their questions to individuals in the offices.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO BROADEN COVERAGE
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February 29, 1968