Mr. Nelson A. Riis (Kamloops-Shuswap) moved:
That this House commends the Government of Manitoba for its positive policies of job creation which have produced the lowest unemployment level in Canada, and calls upon the Government to adopt a similar course of economic expansion rather than the discredited policies of tax increases and spending cuts which it has pursued to date and which are largely responsible for the latest unemployment statistics, which show an alarming increase of 167,000 unemployed between December, 1984 and January, 1985.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to lead off for the New Democratic Party on its Opposition Day motion. In a sense, the motion identifies the number one issue which faces the country-unemployment.
If we look around at a variety of models, there are some areas of the world and, indeed, some areas of Canada that provide us with some guidance as to what the present federal Government ought to be using as it develops its plans for the Budget and the ways and means it will use to get the economy of Canada back on track.
As a youngster I was a fan of Robert Louis Stevenson. He wrote a book entitled The Wreckers. The fundamental theme in that book was that a group of rather unscrupulous people on a South Pacific island set up large bonfires in the evenings on certain parts of the beach. Those bonfires were to act as beacons to ships which were sailing past and to indicate to them that those were safe areas in which to anchor. However, there were hidden shoals and when the large ships sailed in they were shipwrecked. Then the unscrupulous island people would plunder the contents of the ships, and as a result people would lose their lives.
I was reminded of that story when thinking about the nature of this debate. The federal Government is saying: "Follow us". The Minister of Employment and Immigration (Miss MacDonald) is saying: "Have faith in us. Just give us time, because we are providing guidance".
Human wreckage has resulted from that policy and that kind of direction. I do not have to go any further than my own constituency. Kamloops has an official unemployment rate of 20.3 per cent. In real terms, that means there are over 10,000
people in that region who are officially collecting unemployment insurance, over 5,500 people on welfare, and hundreds of others who do not qualify for unemployment insurance or welfare support. There are small-business people who do not qualify and fall through the social security net. There are 2,500 young people under the age of 25 who are jobless in that community. The Minister tells them not to worry because Canada Works will provide jobs. There are more than 15,000 who are unemployed and Canada Works may provide 200 jobs in the next few months. The Minister of Employment and Immigration tells us to have faith in the Government and to be patient because the private sector in Kamloops will provide thousands of jobs in the next little while.
Last weekend I was in my constituency and met with three business groups. The groups, which speak for small and medium-sized businesses, said that they were literally clinging to survival and that they were not thinking about expansion. They told me that the best scenario which could happen was that they would not go bankrupt. I also met with representatives of the ministerial association, pastors from a number of churches in the greater Kamloops area. They said that if things did not change dramatically over the next few months there would be violence, civil disobedience and bloodshed in the streets. That was told to me by pastors who are the heads of their congregations. These are people who have not only a compassion but an understanding of the realities on the main streets of Kamloops.
I see Hon. Members opposite laughing at that proposal. The heads of churches say that there will in fact be blood running and violence in these communities because of the economic policies being pursued by Governments in this country. Those are not my views necessarily. I am simply reflecting the views of the religious leaders in my community.
I received a letter this morning from a young man who has worked for the last 12 years but who lost his job a few months ago. He ran out of his unemployment insurance benefits. A few weeks ago he went down to the welfare office to apply for a subsidy and was told that they could not give him one at the time because his wife was working and earning $525 a month. This couple's rent for a very modest apartment is $375. They have just received a bill from B.C. Hydro for a two-month period in the amount of $148. That leaves them $2, Mr. Speaker, to live on for the month. That $2 will have to pay for their food and all the other incidentals which life demands.
This young husband is a proud man and he sees today no hope. He is told by Government services that he does not qualify for a subsidy but if he comes back in two or three
February 12, 1985
months it might be able to find a $60 a month supplement for him. Some of us in this House should try living on $2 a month. What this means, of course, is that this proud individual will now have to go downtown and get in line at the food bank. If he is lucky he will get a hamper of food after standing in line for an hour or so because inevitably at the end of the day the food supply runs out and has to be replenished. This is a reality now in one of the richest parts of Canada traditionally. This is a reality in a province which is identified as a "have" province. It is recognized as a very prosperous province generally, but the Province of British Columbia, Mr. Speaker, is on its knees. It is an economic basket case.
For a moment, Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn our attention away from that part of Canada. We found out a few days ago that unemployment has soared, increasing more in one month than it has in any single month over the last five years. The increase in the number of people who are unemployed in Canada over the last month is the equivalent of the population of cities like Sudbury, Saskatoon, Chicoutimi, Oshawa, St. John's. In other words, the size of the entire population of a city was added to the unemployment rolls in one single month. But the Government still says "Be patient, folks; relax. We are consulting with various groups and so on. We will be bringing in a Budget some time in April or May". The Budget will take effect in terms of its policy in the fall or next winter some time, but the Government says "Just relax".
I suspect that the people of Canada are not prepared to relax much longer. There are one and a half million people in this country who are unemployed and that number is growing. That means one and a half million people are not playing their rightful role in Canadian society of building the Canadian economy. There are fewer houses under construction, fewer roads being built, fewer trees being planted and fewer consumer goods being produced, all because one and a half million people are idle.
On top of that there is the cost of nearly $ 1 billion a month for unemployment insurance benefits from the federal Government, plus hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in welfare payments out of the federal Government's treasury in terms of transfer payments. We cannot afford these high levels of unemployment in the country, Mr. Speaker, because of what it does to the productive capacity in Canada and what it costs Canadians.
What has been the argument and the proposals of our Governments, Mr. Speaker? I believe we could distil the alternatives down to two. There is one school of thought which thinks the solution to unemployment is to unshackle the market-place; free enterprise, some would say. To these people, government bureaucracies are the root of all evil. If we reduce government, the private sector will enthusiastically come to life, spring into action and develop, expand and create those jobs, is the explanation we hear from the Conservatives.
John Kenneth Galbraith summed it up I think quite nicely when he said that these are the folks who believe that the rich
are not working because they have too little money and the poor are not working because they have too much money.
These people want to take us back to an earlier time in the past when they believed government was less intrusive in the lives of individuals. How are they prepared to do that? They want to reduce the size of government. Their very first priority is to reduce expenditures on social programs and slash the deficit no matter what the consequences. This is what we have seen in the Province of British Columbia. This is the reality of the world of Bill Bennett.
In his statement on November 8 the Minister of Finance (Mr. Wilson) outlined the Government's priorities. At the top of the list was not job creation or economic development; at the top of the list was deficit reduction. The Minister's statements on November 8 sounded strangely similar to those statements of the Premier of British Columbia in his last two budgets.
Let me give a couple of examples. On November 8 the Minister of Finance said that controlling the deficit must be our priority for this year and each year of the Government's mandate. The B.C. budget of 1973 said that the Government's decision is clear-"We shall restrain expenditure and reduce the size of government". Again on November 8 the federal Minister of Finance said he believes that deficit reduction is the key to rebuilding confidence. The B.C. budget of 1983 said that the budget provides what is needed to contain the size and burden of government so the private sector, our major resource companies and all businesses large and small, will have the climate needed to ensure that our fragile recovery gains momentum.
Let us look at what happened in British Columbia. In 1983 they looked into the future and made some projections, as did the federal Minister of Finance. In B.C. they said that real provincial growth will occur in the 6 per cent range. Capital investment will increase by 15 per cent in 1984 and employment growth will increase nearly 4 per cent. That is what they thought was going to happen. That is what they wished was going to happen. It is a Peter Pan approach to economics; if you really believe it is going to happen, it will happen.
Well, Mr. Speaker, it did not happen. Real provincial growth was less than 1 per cent. In other words, it decreased. There was no economic growth in British Columbia. Capital investment fell by 5 per cent rather than increasing by 15 per cent. Employment growth fell. In other words, unemployment is increasing at a staggering rate month after month after month. What they projected simply did not occur.
While it is not surprising that opposition Members, particularly New Democrats from British Columbia, would have a rather jaundiced view of what has happened, we are not the only ones. I can quote the president of the Chartered Accountants' Association of British Columbia. On October 19, 1984 he said that B.C. is heading for hell in a hand-basket this winter. He said many of his members are telling their clients to flee British Columbia. In other words, if you are looking for opportunity, for growth and development, for investment
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opportunities, do not stay in British Columbia, go east to Manitoba.
That is what Michael Walker, the chief economist for the Fraser Institute, had to say to young people. They asked him what he would suggest they do in British Columbia and he said the best news he had for young people in British Columbia is not the old "Go west, young man"; it is "Go east, young man". He meant go east to Manitoba.
Subtopic: BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic: ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 62-JOB CREATION