January 19, 1926 (15th Parliament, 1st Session)

LAB

Abraham Albert Heaps

Labour

Mr. HEAPS:

All salaries in this particular classification.
I listened yesterday to considerable arraignment of the government from the lips of the leader of the opposition and I gathered that one of the principal reasons for his condemnation of the Liberal party was the fact that in past years they had appointed so many royal commissions which had never accomplished anything useful. I quite agree with that statement, but it seems to me that before any member of the opposition presumes to criticize any other party on the score of appointing royal commissions that prove futile it might be just as well for him to consider what was done by the royal commission appointed by the Conservative party in 1919 for the purpose of investigating industrial relations in Canada. Such an inquiry would prove, I think, rather illuminating. In the year 1919 a commission was appointed to investigate industrial conditions in Canada and it submitted its report in due course. I have in my hand a copy of that report from which I learn that the commission consisted of the following members:
The Honourable Chief Justice Mathers, of Manitoba, chairman;
The Honourable Smeaton White, a member of the Senate, and managing director, Montreal Gazette Publishing Company, Montreal;

The Address-Mr. Heaps
Charles Harrison, M.P., railroad conductor, North Bay, Ont. As representatives of the public.
Mr. Carl Riordon, president, Riordon Pulp and Paper Company, Montreal, P.Q.;
Mr. F. Pauze, lumberman, *Montreal, P.Q. As representatives of the employers.
Mr. T. Moore, Ottawa, president of the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada;
Mr. J. W. Bruce of Toronto, member of the Labour Appeal Board. As representatives of the employees.
This commission went at great length into the study of industrial conditions in this country and I cannot conceive what the object in appointing it could have been if its report was not intended to form a basis of action by this House. If commissions are appointed merely as a means of shelving difficult problems then of course they are absolutely useless, iand it has occurred to me that one of the reasons for appointing these commissions is precisely this. Any problem that is rather awkward is referred to a royal commission. And what did this particular commission report? After studying the problem from one end of Canada to the other it made the following statement in section 21:
The chief causes of unrest may be enumerated as follows:
1. Unemployment and the fear of unemployment.
2. High cost of living in relation to wages, and the desire of the worker for a larger share of the product of his labour.
o. Desire for shorter hours of labour.
4. Denial of the right to organize and refusal to recognize Unions..
5. Denial of collective bargaining.
6. Lack of confidence in constituted government.
7. Insufficient and poor housing.
8. Restrictions upon the freedom of speech and press.
9. Ostentatious display of wealth.
10. Lack of equal educational opportunities.
The report goes on to give a list of what the commission regards as desirable measures to be undertaken by parliament or other authorities to cope with the situation. It recommends, for example, the fixing of a minimum wage especially for women and girls and for unskilled labour, a maximum working day of eight hours, and a weekly rest of not less than twenty-four hours. It also makes a recommendation in regard to special insurance against unemployment, sickness, invalidism and old age. For many years we have been promised action along this line, and turning to the platform of the Liberal party of the year 1919 I find resolutions in this connection embodied therein as passed at the convention held in Ottawa at that time. I note also that the question of old age pension has been before the House on more than one occasion. If I mistake not, a committee was appointed last year to look into the question and it recommended favourably upon some form of old age pensions to be instituted as a
Dominion measure in co-operation with the provincial authorities. I hope therefore that in this House during the present session something will be done to put this recommendation into practice. I have had a little experience in looking after the needy in the city of Winnipeg and I am fully aware of the difficulties of the problem; I know what it means to an elderly person to have no means of making provision against the future. When we read what wages the average worker in Canada receives at the present time, I do not think that there is a member of this House who would suggest that those wages are adequate to meet any contingency either in connection with old age or on account of sickness or anything else.
Let me deal very briefly with the question of unemployment. In this regard I must give this much credit to the Conservative party, that when they were in office they did give some degree of relief to men and women who found themselves out of work by contributing one-third of the funds which the municipalities provided for the relief of unemployment. I regret to say however that when the Liberals came into power one of the first things they did was to cut off that relief to the unemployed. Now there is no use in this parliament trying to ignore the fact that there is in Canada to-day a serious unemployment problem, and the sooner that fact is faced squarely the better it will be for this Dominion. And in regard to old age pensions, the provinces are demanding some form of assistance for the aged throughout the country. This is becoming a pressing problem in the city of Winnipeg and it is highly important that something should be done to meet the situation. As regards unemployment, I have been receiving telegrams daily from the civic officials of Winnipeg demanding that the government take action in this direction; and in addition to these I have been getting telegrams with reference to the disabled returned men. The action of the government in cutting off those men who have less than a 20 per cent disability has imposed an added burden upon the various municipalities- The government so far have given no definite assurance that they will look after these particular cases. We dlo not know whether they will do anything to assist the aged and the needy in Canada. These are problems which I hope to see taken in hand at this Session of parliament. So far as the Speech from the Throne is concerned, I must say that it conveys very little that is promising to myself; I see in it very little hope or encouragement from the standpoint of labour itself.
278 COMMONS
The Address

Mr. Sutherland (N. Oxford)
As the hour is late, Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to detain the House further. This is my first effort to address the members of parliament and I want to express my appreciation of the courtesy which they have shown me not only on this occasion but ever since I have come to the House. No doubt in the near future I shall have a further opportunity of discussing on this floor -the questions that are near and dear to us of the Labour group.

Topic:   GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH
Subtopic:   ADDRESS IN REPLY
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