Mr. Andre Gauthier (Lake St. John):
Mr. Speaker, custom and tradition have given a great flexibility to the debate on the address in reply. That is why I shall take this opportunity to express personal opinions on special problems, especially those of particular concern to the people I have the honour to represent in this house.
Before going into the main part of my remarks, I should like to congratulate the mover (Mr. Hanna) and the seconder (Mr. Robichaud) of the address in reply to the speech from the throne. The well prepared speeches they have made reflect their knowledge of politics and of the problems of the day. Their constituents have reason to be proud of the choice they made at the last general election, a choice which they will no doubt renew with pleasure at the next election.
The agricultural class and the working class share about equally in the economic
The Address-Mr. A. Gauthier activity of the constituency of Lake St. John. Generally speaking we are quite happy about our lot. The Aluminum Company of Canada which, together with the pulp and paper industry, is responsible for the industrialization of the district, has just undertaken works of immense magnitude on the Peribonca river, in the northern part of the constituency, in order to develop hydroelectric power to the extent of 700,000 horsepower. 1,500 men are already gainfully employed there and it is assumed that before the end of the summer this figure will have more than doubled. Before that project is completed, lines of vats for the production of aluminum will be erected at He Maligne so that the production of aluminum ingots in this locality should be equal to that of Arvida which is at present the greatest aluminum producing centre. It means that the working class is justified in hoping for a high level of employment and for reasonable salaries but, even though full employment brings prosperity to all sections of our economy, the situation of the farmer remains unstable and unsatisfactory.
Agriculture is a section of our Canadian economy to which the government must give particular attention; I am glad to see that the speech from the throne provides greater encouragement for agriculture.
On January 9, in the course of this debate, the hon. Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) has shown that he is well aware of the situation of our Quebec farmers and of the importance, to the Canadian economy, of our agricultural element. That is the reason why the Senate investigation proposed by the government cannot but bring beneficial results for agriculture as a whole as well as an improvement of economic conditions for our farmers.
Meanwhile, a good way to help the farmers, as well as the workers with large families, would be to increase the rate of family allowances.
We are indebted to the Right Honourable Mackenzie King and to the liberal party for this excellent social legislation. I do not know of any other social measure offering as many advantages as the Family Allowances Act; it is the one that helps the largest number of Canadians.
Since 1945, the cost of living has increased substantially, so that the original value of the allowances has sharply decreased.
We are now facing a serious threat of inflation, which causes more concern to those who come under a measure of such a high social value.
I have received requests from several hundreds of my constituents who are asking
the government to increase the rate of family allowances.
I support these requests, Mr. Speaker, for I know they are rightful requests. If the government could double those amounts it would be a very good thing, but the least that can be done is to give these social dividends the buying power they had in 1945.
Ever since I became a member of this house I have taken a keen interest in unemployment insurance. As a matter of fact, at the first session of the last parliament I asked that our bushworkers come under the Unemployment Insurance Act. I thought that the need for protection was greatest for those who are the most exposed to fluctuations in the labour market. That is why I did not hesitate to speak on their behalf in this house. And it was not in vain, since on April 1, 1950, bushworkers could qualify as all other workers.
When the law was revised, in 1955, I advocated the abrogation of the seasonal regulations concerning that class of workers. I wish to thank the authorities of the commission who saw fit to grant my request and the request which was made, the same day, by my colleague from Charlevoix (Mr. Maltais).
The purpose of the revision of the Unemployment Insurance Act was to extend its application to a larger number of people, and to increase the amount of the benefits. We have achieved our goal in part, but I thought I should make a suggestion to the hon. Minister of Labour (Mr. Gregg) in order to improve the lot of those who want to avail themselves of it to a larger extent.
Amendments to the act voted early last session had the effect of assimilating the rate of seasonal benefits to the rate of ordinary benefits and to extend to ten weeks the minimum period during which an unemployed person is entitled to receive such payments during the off season. When bringing in these amendments, the legislators had mainly in mind the human side of the question; this is why I too want to suggest that seasonal benefits should begin to be paid as from early December; a construction worker generally becomes unemployed at the end of November and such amendment as I just proposed would enable our unemployed to receive unemployment benefits before the Christmas and New Year holidays. What a comfort it would be to those people who are already in a plight after losing their jobs to receive benefits enabling them to buy at least the bare necessities of life at that time of the year!
Each of us still remembers with anxiety the events of last fall, when Israel, France and England, each in turn, invaded Egypt. Upon this occasion, our Prime Minister and our representatives in the United Nations played a most important part and history will recognize that Canada, in proposing the creation of an international police force, found the formula which prevented another world war. I must say that I was very proud of the firm attitude of our Prime Minister. His words and his deeds proved to the world that our country was an independent and sovereign country and that, consequently, it could take its own responsibilities and its own attitudes.
Afterwards, an incident occurred which emphasized a national weakness, namely the absence of a distinctive national flag. Hon. members will recall the refusal of Colonel Nasser to approve the presence of a Canadian battalion because the flag of that regiment contained a union jack which could lead to confusion with the British flag.
I have brought up this question of a flag two or three times in this house but, in view of its importance, I want to raise it again.
On December 9, 1953, seconding a motion introduced by my colleague from Bonaven-ture (Mr. Arsenault), I made the following statements which I would like to repeat today:
We have achieved national unity through the efforts of the Liberal party and of those who have been Its leaders for the past 50 years. It is also under Liberal administrations, and more particularly through the efforts of our present leaders, that our country progressed through the various stages that led to complete sovereignty and independence. The logical consequence of our previous moves would therefore be to endow our country with a distinctive national flag.
There has been much thought of national unity. To my mind there is nothing more important for the furtherance of that national unity than a flag which, in every circumstance, should serve as a rallying sign for all Canadians. Every citizen of this country is proud of belonging to this great Canadian nation of ours. The best way to give concrete form to this pride is to adopt an exclusive Canadian symbol.
Certain timorous individuals, more imperialistic than Canadian, fear that by doing away with the union jack we will weaken the ties that bind us to the commonwealth. To them I would say that the strength of the whole is the sum total of the strength of the parts. In any event these people should now understand that sentimental links are a thing of the past so far as Canada is concerned and that if we remain in the commonwealth it is because we find it to be in our interest, to begin with, as well as in the common interest of the free peoples and of the cause of world peace.
The present Prime Minister has stated on various occasions that he is favourable to the
The Address-Mr. Van Horne adoption of a truly distinctive flag, but he believes, wisely, in my opinion, that the taking of such a step must not be a matter for controversies sufficiently bitter to prejudice national unity.
Last Tuesday when the house opened, he said something which has given me an idea which I would like to pass on to the government. In congratulating the hon. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Diefenbaker), the hon. Prime Minister said:
I extend to the Leader of the Opposition our sincere good wishes in his new position and I wish to assure him quite seriously that I will be ready at all times to discuss with him in advance matters which need not be controversial on party lines and about which national unity might perhaps be best served by solutions that we could all recommend to those whom we represent in parliament.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the choice of a truly distinctive national flag should not be a controversial matter in Canada. That is why I am suggesting a conference of the four party leaders; if there are still some Canadians who do not favour a distinctive national flag, I say that the duty of the party leaders is to direct and guide public opinion.
Such a consultation would acquaint us with the opinion of the different party leaders and, I am sure, would bring about a unanimous feeling on a question so essential to Canadian sovereignty and to the independence of our beautiful and great country.
Before resuming my seat, Mr. Speaker, I wish to say that the population has heard with the greatest satisfaction about the settlement of the Canadian Pacific strike.
I wish to congratulate the hon. Prime Minister for his part in the negotiations. He has shown that, in this field, as well as in many others, he is a true leader for the Canadian nation. I am sure that, when the time comes, Canada will show him its appreciation.
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY