March 15, 1939 (18th Parliament, 4th Session)

LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

It is entirely within the power of the provinces to determine what share of relief costs the municipalities will bear, and it is also within the power of the provinces to give permission to the municipalities as to whether they can fund their relief costs or otherwise.
In the last few moments I have been trying to put to the house some of the cogent reasons which have led the government to follow this policy of giving grants in aid to the provinces for unemployment relief, maintaining that policy at least until such time as there can be a clear and intelligent redefinition of responsibility with respect to social welfare as between the dominion and the provinces; and I submit that on the basis of our experience in past years, the arguments to support that position are valid and are arguments which must have commended themselves to any government holding responsibility in this matter at this time.
So far as the past year is concerned, the agreements entered into with the provinces were framed in terms recommended by the national employment commission. We put into effect in those agreements most, if not all, of the specific recommendations made by that commission. I am bound to say that some of the recommendations did not prove to be as satisfactory in practice as they appeared to be in prospect. That fate, of course, befalls many recommendations, but for the most part we have been able to carry out those recommendations of the national employment commission which were designed to bring about a more economical and efficient administration of relief under this system of dual responsibility.
The total amount appropriated last year for grants-in-aid was $17,500,000. That was divided among the provinces upon as fair a basis as we could devise. In each province the maximum was controlled by a percentage. We have kept very close to that appropriation during the past year. We have also permitted the provinces that desired to do so to substitute works or training plans for direct relief. In a number of provinces that has been done. Here again that alternative was incorporated in the agreement with the full approval of the national employment commission. I regret to say that the provinces in general have not taken kindly to the

Unemployment and Agricultural Distress
suggestion that training plans should be substituted for relief with respect to the older unemployed men and women. Some provinces have taken much more kindly to the view that the money assigned to the provinces for unemployment relief should be spent in providing work instead of relief, through a public works program. I may speak particularly of the province of Quebec in that respect. That province took the position very strongly that they were in favour of a broad public works program which would afford employment to all who were idle. We, as a dominion government, took the position that if a province wished to follow that method it might use our contribution to do so, but that we would not and could not pay more to a province to carry out that method of providing relief than we would to those provinces that were by preference administering a system of direct relief. In the nature of things one has to allow some latitude with respect to programs which are applied in the different provinces. We have not been arbitrary in our dealings with the several provinces. We have as far as it lay in our power done our utmost to cooperate with them in carrying out policies which were designed to relieve the unemployment situation within their boundaries.
I come now to other expenditures under the relief act of 1938-39. These expenditures are set out in the supplementary estimates of the present fiscal year. I am not going to comment at any length on the various items, but it might provide the house with some indication of the scope of the work done if I mention each of them in passing.
The first is to provide for commitments under relief settlement agreements with provincial governments. That plan was initiated under the preceding administration. It is a plan whereby families on relief are taken from our populous towns and cities and placed upon selected land with some financial assistance designed during the four year period to make them self-supporting. This plan has worked out reasonably well in some provinces; in others it has been abandoned. I shall be glad to give full details when the bill itself is in committee. I would say, however, that opinion in a number of provinces is turning definitely in the direction of broader schemes of agricultural reestablishment. When this is done, my view is that so far as the dominion government broader schemes of agricultural reestablish-should come from the Department of Agriculture and not from the Department of Labour. It seems to me that agricultural
matters ought to come within the purview of the department that assumes responsibility for agriculture throughout the country. The Department of Labour entered into these land settlement plans because they developed within what might be termed the structure of relief administration. They are being continued, and as I said, I shall be pleased to place before the house the details of the success attending them in the various provinces.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS- UNDERTAKINGS IN GENERAL INTEREST AND FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO PROVINCES
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