Mr. Chairman, in my turn, I would like to take this opportunity to express my views to the house. I have the honour of representing one of the two largest ridings in the province of Quebec, one of the 22 largest in Canada.
It is an immense riding which, in spite of a most rigorous winter and a very poor summer, would not be in such a serious situation if it had not been so neglected in the past. Located at the watershed, its subsoil is rich in minerals of all kinds, in almost infinite quantity, a large part of which is still undeveloped and untapped.
Mr. Chairman, we virtually walk on gold, on copper, on zinc and on metals of all kinds. Still, our people are reduced to extreme poverty. Unemployment is prevailing there more than anywhere else in this country, in spite of this great wealth. A few mines are being operated, but we have to export this ore in order to have it processed. We must cope with this situation as soon as possible. Moreover, the soil can be adapted to all kinds of crops. In the past, we have used it only for dairying.
In the Abitibi district, the butter dairies had to be closed because there are not enough outlets and because there are butter surpluses practically everywhere. The farmers have to buy part of their own production. That is why they lose interest in that industry. The best organized of our parishes are being deserted by farmers. Their farming revenues being too small to ensure them a decent living, they come to town where they increase the number of unemployed.
Our vast forests contain the essential products for pulpwood and timber. Here again, we must export that pulpwood, waste and bark. Yet we have waterways and waterfalls from which power could be produced to develop our own natural resources. Nobody had thought about that.
Mr. Chairman, if we directed the farm production towards beef breeding in that vast county, we could produce enough cattle for the consumption of all the population of the province of Quebec. To achieve that, the government should establish in that part of the province of Quebec an experimental farm where the climate and the nature of the soil could be studied on the spot to give better advice to cattle-breeders.
In that region which offers such possibilities, a problem has arisen which comes from that continuous concern caused by a system which allows unemployment to exist. Every part of the country suffers from that situation.
Mr. Chairman, for a long time, great men who are considered the elite of the country,
have been trying to find a solution to or the causes of unemployment for which the two traditional parties are to blame.
Unemployment is a social evil which we cannot tolerate any longer. We must stop it. We must find a means to solve that problem as soon as possible. In my opinion, the best way to achieve that is to find a better market for consumer goods. As a matter of fact, if the consumer's purchasing power is not at the same level as production, we shall never be able to solve the problem.
Mr. Chairman, unfortunately, there will be thousands of families in my constituency this winter who, as a result of unemployment, will find themselves in most difficult circumstances, who will lack food, clothing, heating and medical care. And all that, in the midst of abundance.
Most of them will not be eligible for unemployment benefits, because they have remained unemployed for so long that they do not have enough stamps to be entitled to them.
Mr. Chairman, statistics show that at one time, there were 150,000 unemployed in the country, and later they show there were 350,000 and later still, 500,000. We are inclined to believe that that is the largest number of unemployed workers. The fact remains that at one period or other of the year, there may be 250,000 unemployed persons, and the number increases later on. But some of the first group, at least, have found employment, which means that by the end of the year probably one million workers might be considered as having been unemployed at some time or other during the year. So the problem of the person who has been unemployed for three, four, five or even six months in the year is not settled the day he finds employment. This class of worker must be considered as being in need, because we see that those who are lucky enough to hold permanent jobs barely manage to make both ends meet with their regular pay. Therefore, the workless, those who have to do without any income for part of the year, know the worries which can be caused by such a problem.
Mr. Chairman, there is another problem in my constituency. In my district, there are unincorporated parishes, apart from the municipal corporations. Now, the winter works program which was set up by this government
a few years ago allows municipalities to develop projects and take advantage of that program. Let us see. May I quote the first paragraph of a small folder on the winter works program which I was given. It reads as follows:
The purpose of the municipal winter works program is to give an incentive to municipalities and communities to multiply the employment opportunities during winter-
It seems to me this means that the parishes not incorporated in municipalities can also take advantage of this winter works promotion program. However, after having checked on the matter, I have been told that the communities, in order to take advantage of this program, must apply to the county council or corporation. Then, I wondered why the corporation of the county of Abitibi was not helping out its localities. I have investigated, and here is the answer which I received from the corporation of the Abitibi county. I quote:
When you came to my office, I told you what the situation was, and the reeve has asked me to give you a written confirmation of the decision taken by the county council.
It goes without saying that this reply is from the secretary of the corporation. I continue:
This decision is to the effect that the corporation of Abitibi county, as a corporation, flatly refuses to take in charge the winter works program in the unorganized territories.
Mr. Chairman, this does not bring any solution to the problem of the communities.
I fully appreciate that the corporation of Abitibi county must be facing the same financial problem as nearly all the other municipalities. It has not enough money in its treasury to assist the non-incorporated parishes.
The county corporation must provide for at least 10 per cent of the salary and cost of building materials.
But the corporation does not have sufficient funds to help so many communities. That is why it cannot accomplish this task alone.
I, therefore, asked on various occasions, in this house, what the Minister of Labour intended to do in this matter, and I was told each time that I was out of order. Nobody wanted to answer those questions.
In this case, I believe it would be a good thing if the Minister of Labour, and perhaps even other members of the government came down to the level of the working classes. I even invite them to visit the Abitibi district,
the county of Chapleau which I represent, to see for themselves what problems exist in that district. They would in future be in a better position to evaluate our claims.
Mr. Chairman, I do not want to dwell too much upon the subject under discussion this afternoon, but I would like to point out to the house that, in order to remedy as soon as possible the problems which our working people have to face, as well as our farmers, who have only a very small income-and some of them have practically none-and even our labourers, our workers who are unable to find any employment in their field, the government should immediately provide for a raise in family allowances to help those people right now, without increasing taxes, of course, because this always spoils the effect.
The government should also increase the so-called old age pensions and lower the retirement age. We should also increase pensions to disabled persons, to the blind and to all those in need, in order to enable them to live decently in a Canada as wealthy as it is, without having to beg elsewhere for the basic requirements of life.
Now, Mr. Chairman, such is not the case. Such measures are needed in the shortest possible time to give satisfaction to that population which would only be too happy to benefit from all the advantages Canada has to offer with all its national wealth.
Now, Mr. Chairman, we are requesting-I request it for my riding as well as for all other parts of Canada-a basic tax exemption on personal income tax raised to $5,000 per year for married people and to $3,000 for single taxpayers. In addition, it would be wise for the government to give exemptions from municipal and school taxes, in the form of a refund of municipal and school taxes, to any property owner receiving some kind of government pension.
Among about a hundred letters which I recently received, one referred to a rather pitiable case. A government pensioner who lives with his wife and who only gets $89 a month owes a $500 tax bill. When you figure the cost of electricity, water and insurance premiums, etc., you realize that they must spend $56 per month for those items alone. Now, under such circumstances, needless to say those people would prefer to lead a normal life and it is up to us to enable them to do so.
That is why we are asking for all that. If the government does not take steps to remedy the situation pretty soon, you can be sure that I will be ready to help throw it out of office.