April 4, 1938 (18th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)



I believe my hon. friend is correct in that, and I acknowledge it fully. What I am giving now is the number of the fully employable on relief. The total number of persons on aid, other than agricultural aid, including employable, unemployable and non-worker dependents, or, in other words, including children up to the age of
sixteen, and wives, was 604,000, in January, 1938, according to unrevised figures. Farm population on agricultural aid shows a figure of 410,000. That is a significant figure, and one to which I shall refer in a moment. It is a reflection of the vast drought conditions in Saskatchewan. Then, there is a comparision of January, 1938, with January 1937, and December 1937. I should like to place those figures on Hansard, because at this time I think it is of the utmost importance that we should know what the situation is, as reflected by registration figures.
For January, 1938, fully employable persons showed a decrease of thirty-seven per cent from January, 1937. From December, 1937, the number of fully employable persons showed an increase of about seven per cent. All persons on non-agricultural aid in January, 1938, showed a decrease of thirty per cent from January, 1937. From December, 1937, to January, 1938, there was an increase of seven per cent in non-agricultural aid. Agricultural aid in January, 1938, showed an increase of 103 per cent over January, 1937. Of the January, 1938, total on agricultural aid, approximately eighty-nine per cent were located in Saskatchewan. Those are general figures, covering the entire dominion.
It seemed to me there might be some advantage in breaking down those figures of the unemployed on relief in the various geographical and industrial areas of the country. I believe I shall be able to convince the committee of the significance of such a break-down. It lies in the fact that we have conditions operating in British Columbia different from those in the maritime provinces, and conditions in the prairie provinces during the last seven years have been entirely different from those obtaining, let us say, in the great industrial provinces of central Canada.
I have had this statement prepared in order to show the changes which have taken place in these different areas from January, 1936, to January, 1937, and again from January, 1937, to January, 1938. I have divided Canada into four economic zones, namely the maritime provinces, central Canada, the prairie provinces and British Columbia, and I suggest there are sound reasons for so dividing them. The total numbers of all domestic classifications of persons on aid in January, 1938, compared with January 1936, showed reductions in three zones. There was a reduction of thirty-two per cent, or about a third, in British Columbia; 49-7 per cent in the central provinces, and 83-6 per cent
Relief and Agricultural Distress

in the maritime provinces. Only the prairie provinces showed an increase, and one to the extent of 49-7 per cent.
Material aid-that is, aid exclusive of agricultural aid-showed reductions in all areas, with the exception of the prairie provinces. The dominion reduction was 38-7 per cent. That in British Columbia was 29-7 per cent; in central Canada it was 45T per cent, and in the maritime provinces, 78-4 per cent. Agricultural aid showed a net increase for the dominion, from January, 1936, to January, 1938, of twenty-nine per cent. This was wholly accounted for by farm distress in Saskatchewan. The net increase in the prairie provinces over the two years was 83-8 per cent; but the three remaining areas showed reductions in agricultural aid of 44-9 per cent in British Columbia, 88-1 per cent in central Canada and 97-1 per cent in the maritime provinces.
With respect to these different areas, it is quite clear that particularly in the maritime provinces there has been what might be termed a virtual return to normal economic conditions. We have here a reduction, since this government took office, amounting to over eighty per cent of the relief problem, and it may be recalled that in the speech from the throne delivered in Nova Scotia this year, the explicit statement was made that there had been a reduction from 75,000 on relief in Nova Scotia in 1933 to 6,500 at the present time. Surely that is a remarkable improvement.
In New Brunswick direct relief is no longer being given. That province, however, is giving assistance to unemployed in need through what might be termed a works-test program, to which the dominion government has given a contribution.
The problem has been reduced by one-third in British Columbia during the period I have indicated. In the last two years the problem in the central provinces has been almost cut in half. In the prairie provinces, of course, there has been this unfortunate increase in the numbers receiving agricultural aid. And may I say this, while referring to conditions in the prairie provinces, that of course the increase in those receiving relief has been mainly due to the prolonged drought. The problem in the western provinces has never been susceptible to general economic influences, in the sense in which it has in the other provinces. I believe it is important that we recognize that fact.
As I said this afternoon-and it is acknowledged by everyone-there is every reason why

we should seek the truth in these matters; but we should be sure it is the truth, and we should not speak of an unemployment problem as one including those suffering from continued drought conditions. We should not feel that we are not making progress with respect to employment simply because there is a continuance of those receiving agricultural relief in the drought areas.

Full View