July 25, 1944 (19th Parliament, 5th Session)


Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government


With that I am in perfect agreement. Nobody will hear me make any statement or raise any argument such as was anticipated by the Prime Minister. As a matter of fact the difficulty I see with the Prime Minister's argument is this, that

Family Allowances
although he speaks very appealingly on the subject of the people being able to look after themselves, he has included in this very bill a section which states as follows:
5. The allowance shall be applied by the person receiving the same exclusively towards the maintenance, care, training, education and advancement of the child-
Then comes the joker-and it is particularly a joker in view of the words used by the Prime Minister when he was championing the humble poor a few minutes ago:
-and, if the minister or such officer as is authorized by regulations in that behalf is satisfied that the allowance is not being so applied, payment thereof shall ibe discontinued or made to some other person or agency.
I ask the Prime Minister, if this is to be done with people who are receiving less than $1,200 a year, why is it not applied to those he talked of who are above the $1,200 level and are getting allowances on income tax? That of course is completely destructive of the argument which the Prime Minister now proposes.
Now I want to make a few observations with respect to the measure itself. Let me make this clear at the very outset of my remarks. It will summarize our position as a party with respect to this measure.
I wonder if I may have some order in the house. I have continually had to speak to the Minister of Pensions and National Health; I have done it always in a very friendly manner, but may I say to him that I do not want to have to call him any more "the official interrupter". I should like to see that term banished from the records of the house, and he can help me in this matter.
Mr. Speaker, we support wholeheartedly and without reservation the purpose and object of this bill, namely, the raising of the standard of family life in the lower income groups and the strengthening of all family life in this country, but we are convinced that this bill in its present form cannot achieve that purpose and object. We shall give our reasons for such belief. We propose to offer another and better way of achieving that purpose and object. In simple language, there is where onr party stands.
That there are breadwinners in Canada whose wages and income total less than $1,200 a year reveals a condition of which this nation can scarcely be proud. Yet there are said to be no less than 750,000 families whose total yearly returns fail to reach that figure. Such a condition existing at a stage of our national development where work is easy to get and the man-power situation is tight calls for a new deal for the "little man" in Canada.
There should be in this nation no breadwinner who makes less than $1,200 a year, which, calculated on a weekly basis, amounts to around $23 a week. I ask the house how a little family can be properly raised on anything less than that. It is evident that in the new and expanding economy which must come in the future such conditions must form no part, and I fancy in this House of Commons, regardless of political considerations, I shall have very complete and thorough agreement on that point.
The Progressive Conservative party strongly supports the principle of more equitable adjustment of the extra burdens, borne by parents of families, over the resources of the state, and over all members of the community as a whole. There has long been a compelling and urgent need of action to meet this problem, not only in our low income groups but in fact all through the great sturdy middle class of this country as well. Surely on this we can all agree, and also that we should move, and should have moved long ago, to deal adequately and effectively with such problems.
The measure and methods which the government now submits to us to achieve these ends we do not think are adequate. Left to regulation is the whole tremendous administrative set-up, all the procedures to be followed, as to whether the dominion is going to set up treasury and dominion welfare offices in all the provinces and in the major cities and towns of the country. All this haziness and this demand on parliament for an open warrant to set up committees, board and tribunals and staff is not to meet the problem head on, but rather is it a request for authority to do as little or as much as cabinet desires and to defer any actual, practical help to July 1, 1945. This measure is only an isolated link in what should be a chain of comprehensive welfare and security plans for the home and family and child life of this country. The government must know that this is an illusory, hastily prepared and untenable measure. It must surely be aware of its unconstitutionality. It must know that it is not good enough or sound enough to be put into effect. The public must be made aware that the effect of its illegality will be to delay benefits sought. This measure, which concerns the basic relations in our social life, and which will affect our whole present provincial system of child welfare, mothers' allowances, children's aid, standards of wages, educational authority and child welfare jurisdiction, is presented to parliament not in the form of a complete statute but in the form of authority for regulations

Family Allowances

to be passed. The very character of the measure perpetuates bureaucratic control through delegated authority into our post-war economy, on a measure not connected with the prosecution of the war itself, as is evidenced by the fact that the government postpones its operation for nearly a year.
We support the purpose and principle of elevating the standard of family life among the masses of our people, but we do not believe, that this bill will adequately and effectively carry that out. Some of the reasons for such a stand I shall now enumerate:
1. It is unconstitutional and invades the jurisdiction of the provinces. In other words, it proposes to do things which this parliament has no power to do, and this without even consulting the provinces first. It is a direct thrust at the rights and responsibilities of the provinces, who doubtless will oppose such an illegal encroachment upon their recognized field of welfare services. A measure that will not stand up in court is worse than no measure at all; for it only delays the relief and reform it purports to give. This bill in my opinion, if passed, will be as powerless as a day-old kitten to further the objects and purposes it sets out to accomplish. It might be profitable to recall the words of caution and warnings of disaster on the constitutional point employed by ^ the Prime Minister when he inveighed against the social legislation introduced in the session of 1935. As late as July 14 last we heard an echo of that debate when he spoke of the social legislation introduced at that time, and this is what he said:
That legislation was introduced and placed upon the statute books, but what happened? The matter was appealed to the supreme court which held the whole body of legislation ultra vires. I ask my hon. friends whether that was helping the social order in the country or whether it was the sort of thing that was calculated to provoke social unrest.
I toss those words back to him now and ask him, after the experience he related with respect to that legislation, whether he can consistently introduce a measure now which is in a similar position. I say it is a dangerous and retrograde step to promise the underprivileged people of this nation something in a measure which is limp, which is crippled and which is powerless in law. Others in our party will deal further with the constitutional aspect of this measure, and I do no more than mention it at this juncture.
2. It seriously endangers the setting up of minimum wage standards in Canada, and may be accepted in many instances as a substitute for better wage levels. It is a thrust at the power of collective bargaining and of minimum wage principles. Labour has always
fMr. Graydon.]
looked with a doubtful eye on such legislation as this bill envisages, and not without good reason.
3 It adds a further strain on our national unity. There is but one province which has maintained the high birth rate and large family which was so characteristic of Canada's pioneer strains. That province's contributions to the general revenue will be out of proportion to the heavier deflection of payments that will have to come from other provinces to pay that province's heavier share of these subsidies. A proportionately lower revenue provider receiving a proportionately higher subsidy can scarcely make for greater unity at this stage in our national life.
4. It disregards the whole question of need in family life and child welfare. It is a direct threat to a more comprehensive social programme where cash grants to those in need and adequate health, educational, housing and general welfare provisions would have their place. It thus ignores the needy families of our nation's taxpayers and the heavy expenses incurred by parents with children over sixteen. The loosing of this lone wolf to range in a constitutional no-man's land can seriously threaten the developing dominion-provincial network of assistance and health provisions and even hold back other programmes. This is in the present set-up only "bull in the china shop" legislation and rides rough-shod over social welfare undertakings of the provincial and municipal authorities. This "intruder" legislation runs the risk of disturbing and delaying the progress being so rapidly made by other jurisdictions.
5. It foreshadows the building of a giant peace-time bureaucracy with its inevitable controls, offices, inspectors and machinery. This nation wants to get rid of this kind of thing when the war is over, and here we have this unpopular war-time policy being perpetuated in the period of peace. The bill itself is little more than the barest authority upon which orders in council can be based. The real legislating with respect to this measure will be done behind the closed doors of cabinet council.
6. It is blank cheque legislation without the emergency of war time to justify it. When the flesh is put on the skeleton of this legislation by cabinet-made regulations the people and parliament -will be spectators in the grandstand rather than participants in its framing. It will result- in a costly overlapping of services and will reach its finger into the lives of the people directly from the centre of bureaucracy itself. That to agriculture and labour as well

Family Allowances
as citizens at large will not be a welcome provision in the bill. They are fed up with bureaucracy and controls.
7. It attacks the very basis of our system of justice, for it asks for power to constitute solely at the discretion of the minister and his appointees a system of committees, boards, tribunals and agents with undefined powers and and with denial of appeal under specified heads and with prosecution for infringement of the act, solely with the minister's consent. It constitutes a threat to the liberty of the subject which to say the least may be extremely dangerous.
8. It is a costly duplication of existing services. It gives power to the federal government to set up expensive overlapping agencies where provincial, municipal and voluntary services are now doing a good job. This superimposition of federal machinery on top of existing provincial machinery cannot help but be wasteful and inefficient.
9. It denies the basic principles of social justice. Such justice calls not for the mass treatment of all people as the same, such as marked unemployment relief, but for treating life as it is, individually and the needs of families differently as they are different. The needs of a family in the winter in my part of Ontario are different from those in the far north. Families in a teeming slum and families in the Okanagan; families in the eastern townships and families in Cape Breton's mining or fishing villages, have very different needs. This scheme lumps them all together and gives the' same grant to all. Could the injustice be more patently apparent?
Having stated some of the reasons why we feel that this measure is not in the interest of a better method of raising the family standard in Canada, I now move the following amendment, seconded by the hon. member for York-Sunbury (Mr. Hanson):
That all the words after the word "that" in the said motion be struck out and the following substituted therefor:
"in the opinion of this house it is desirable that the standard of family life among the masses of the people in Canada be raised,
"but in view of the fact that bill 161 is not within the constitutional competence of the do-minion parliament, that it be not now read a second time, but that it be referred to the special committee on social security with instructions that the bill be studied and redrafted after consultation, collaboration and in cooperation with the provinces as a joint undertaking and introduced before this ho-use prorogues. Such redrafted bill Shall contain specific details as to the administrative machinery, forms and procedure under which the bill will be administered and shall provide that any contributions to be made under the terms of
the said hill by the dominion to a province shall be conditional on the federal Minister of Labour certifying that the standard of wages in that province is not lower than the average standards of wages for similar work in the other provinces.
May I propose to the government that as dependents' alowances come properly under federal jurisdiction, the allowances now paid with respect to children of members of our armed forces be augmented at once by the amounts mentioned in the bill now before the house instead of delaying such payment till July 1, 1945. The same should apply to those coming within the provisions of the Pension Act. The government possesses the power to do this quite apart from this bill, and it may also be properly pointed out that such records are available. There is no legitimate excuse for delay. It is merely a matter of increasing the amount of the cheque.
Before I conclude I should like to express the hope that the government will be diverted from their charted course and accept our amendment which is designed to meet more effectively and quickly the problem we are all trying to solve. Its acceptance would prevent such an unconstitutional and unworkable piece of legislation from being tossed into an election campaign where there might be a temptation to make three and a half million political footballs out of Canada's children. At all costs they must not be made pawns in a political game. The public are bound to regard a bill so patently unconstitutional and unworkable, brought in at the dying days of a dying parliament by a dying government, as a last straw to which this drowning administration clutches to save itself in the churning sea of political unpopularity.
On behalf of the children and their parents across Canada who are badly in need of real and immediate help, I repeat my demand and plea that we must have legislation which will work, and which has teeth, and which will provide the essential assistance to the hard-pressed parents of families across the dominion who are struggling hard and doing their level best to keep up in the uncertain race for economic survival to-day. Let us help these people. Let us not just say we will help them a year from now by undisclosed ways and means. Actions speak louder than words, and this party stands for action.

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