Mr. Andre Gauthier (Lake St. John):
Mr. Speaker, this being the first time that I have had the honour and privilege of speaking in this house, it is fitting that I should do so in French. I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate you upon your accession to the high office which you now hold. I also wish to congratulate particularly the Deputy Speaker of the house who so worthily represented my constituency during the last four years before the present parliament was called.
It is my heavy responsibility to take his place as the representative of my constituency. I trust that bearing in mind the high standard which he set in parliament during those years, and fully aware of the responsibilities of my office, which I have accepted entirely, I shall not be the cause of too much disappointment.
Geographically speaking, the constituency I have the honour to represent is situated in the north of the province of Quebec, forming a semicircle around the great lake St. John. Father Jean de Quen set up the cross there more than three centuries ago.
The population of the constituency, almost entirely of French descent, is half agricultural and half industrial. The hydroelectric development at Maligne island and the imminent harnessing of the Peribonca river portend a great industrial future for my district. The farming community, sound and intelligent, has kept the best French traditions. It is a fact that the highest average number of children per family for the whole of Canada is to be found at Notre Dame d'Hebertville, a fine agricultural centre. That half the population of that locality should be of school age is therefore not surprising.
Aluminum production of Maligne island and the pulp mills of River Bend bring well deserved earnings to an industrious and law-abiding class of workers. At both latter points, the English-speaking people of my riding live in perfect harmony with the French-speaking population. This is a living
example and a concrete symbol of that unity which must and does exist throughout Canada.
Lumbering, related and subordinate to the paper industry, is generally prosperous though at the present time there is a rather marked drop in employment, due to the uncertain British market. Moreover, pulp companies, having accumulated substantial reserves, have seen fit this year to do much less wood-cutting, hence the considerable rise in unemployment. It might be felt that unemployment insurance will come to the rescue of these men in their temporary difficulties but such is not the case. This timber industry does not fall within the jurisdiction of the commission and those who are deprived of their usual livelihood are in urgent need of help.
I realize, Mr. Speaker, that the government is not responsible for a situation like this one. I am confident however that once it is made conversant with the facts, the government will, in order to remedy the situation, immediately undertake certain public works which were planned during the past few years. Such projects already exist in many parishes of my county, particularly in St. Joseph d'Alma.
Up to now my requests have been favourably received by the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Fournier) and I wish to thank him for the first results obtained.
Since lumbermen are not exempt from the fluctuations of employment, they should receive the attention of the Department of Labour. The department should, immediately and without taking into account the representations of certain pulp and paper companies, apply the Unemployment Insurance Act to the lumbering industry. That would prevent a recurrence of what is going on at present.
Mr. Speaker, I should like to say a few words about my elderly constituents. Most industries seem to have made it a rule to turn down requests for work from people over 65 years of age. If men can no longer earn a living at 65, then this is the very age at which the government should grant them a pension, so they will not come to want. All old people should be paid a pension without the means test-as is being done now in the case of family allowances-or without sacrificing any nest egg they have set aside for their old age.
Mr. Speaker, the members of all parties in the house are unanimous in proclaiming the autonomy of our country, both in the national
and international spheres. But we should assert our sovereignty in the economic as well as in the political field.
Our trade policy must be resolutely and firmly directed towards Canada's best interests, even if it means the sacrifice of traditional markets often preserved for sentimental rather than practical reasons. The Geneva agreements and the Annecy negotiations are a step in the right direction. In this respect, I am happy to congratulate the government while urging that this policy be pursued still further for we cannot always expect to link two great economic powers. Fortunately, the policy of the government has put us in a better position to play the important part for which we are fitted in the field of trade.
Mr. Speaker, I know that in the minds of the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) and of the members of his cabinet, there is no room for any inferiority complex of a political or economical nature; it is in that spirit that I supported the government during the last election.
I do not belong to that generation whose only interest is to magnify the glories of the past, but rather do I belong to that generation which looks to the future, which, while it jealously guards the legacy left by its forebears, is anxious to enrich, improve, and develop it.
For this reason, Mr. Speaker, because the present government is going in that direction, I have every faith in the future of my constituency and in the destiny of my country.
Topic: THE BUDGET
Subtopic: ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE