Martha Louise BLACK

BLACK, Martha Louise

Personal Data

Independent Conservative
Yukon (Yukon)
Birth Date
February 24, 1866
Deceased Date
October 31, 1957
author, homemaker

Parliamentary Career

October 14, 1935 - January 25, 1940
  Yukon (Yukon)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 5 of 6)

February 9, 1937


Thank you.

Hon. CHARLES A. DUNNING (Minister of Finance): Mr. Speaker, I cannot deal with the portion of the hon. member's question which relates to souvenirs. I believe my colleague, the Minister of National Revenue (Mr. Ilsley) could give information as to what is to be done in that regard.

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May 11, 1936


Mr. Speaker, it has been my privilege to listen to the budgets brought down from the time of the Right Hon. Mr. Fielding. I heard him bring his budgets down; he was followed by the Hon. Mr. Robb, the Hon. Mr. Dunning, the Right Hon. R. B. Bennett, the Hon. Mr. Rhodes and again Mr. Dunning. I have yet to hear one budget that has carried with it the unanimous support and approval of all parties; in very commonplace language, "someone's ox had always to be gored."

The Budget-Mrs. Black (Yukon)

During the early part of this session we had the treaty between Canada and the United States. I did not want to vote against that treaty because I knew it was going to be of help to the Yukon. In the Yukon we import everything we use-our clothes, our food, our machinery. But in thinking the matter over, I felt conscientiously that I had to vote against that treaty because it affected the whole of Canada, and to explain my reason for voting against the treaty I must go back to the reciprocity agreement of 1911. During that campaign, when my husband was working very hard for the election of the hon. gentleman to my left (Mr. Stevens), I received from my father in the United States a letter written to him by an uncle of mine who at that time was president of one of the largest manufacturing concerns in that country. In that letter this uncle said, "There is an election campaign going on in Canada. It is for a reciprocity treaty, and we have stopped our building in Montreal. We are not, going ahead in Toronto. If the treaty goes through, all our manufacturing will be done in the United States." Naturally, therefore, I felt that this treaty would hurt the factories, the manufacturers of Canada, and that is the reason I voted against it. As I have said, the Yukon imports everything, and it exports what the world needs-gold, silver and a small quantity of other metals. I was pleased as a Yukoner when the treaty went through; as a Canadian I am still wondering.

During this session I have listened to speakers on all sides with reference to the railway question. First one speaker brings forward everything he can possibly think of against the Canadian National Railways. The Canadian National is the heaviest drain on the national resources, and the speaker will inveigh against carrying it on. A part of the press inveighs against the expenditures of the Canadian National system. On the other hand, speakers rise in the house and inveigh against the Canadian Pacific Railway, and a part of the press does the same. The Canadian Pacific is the heaviest taxpayer in Canada to-day. I have no brief for either railway, but at the same time it seems to me that as sensible men and women we should stop this continual sniping, first against one road and then against the other. As sensible people, as we value this country, as we value the future not only of ourselves but of our children and of our grandchildren, we should think of business first and of political sniping afterwards. I for one am sick of it.

I sometimes wonder how many people in this house or in the country would recognize 12739-172

the name of Onderdonk, one of the greatest railway builders Canada lias ever known. In the early nineties I knew that man as inti mately as any family friend; he was very much at home in my father's house in Chicago. I heard him tell tales of romance, hard work and the investment of capital in the building of the Canadian Pacific railway in the west, how those men blasted their way through the fearful mountain ranges. Others will say: But the government gave the Canadian Pacific a kingdom. Well, maybe the government of that day did give something to the Canadian Pacific Railway. But who wanted that kingdom at that time? When the United States bought Alaska, why did not Canada, why did not Great Britain buy it at the time for the paltry sum of $7,200,000? Because no one wanted it; and afterwards we say that we have done this and done that. Let us have some sense.

The Minister of Finance, to bring down a budget that would please everybody, would have to be a magician, a hypnotist and a prestidigitator all in one. I have never yet heard of that man in any country in the world. The sales tax will hit the Yukon quite a bit but I am hoping the treaty will offset that. The Yukon, as I said in very few words a short time ago, suffers some injustices from the federal government. Consider those civil servants who for years paid into the superannuation fund on both salary and living allowance. Some on retiring received from the fund the amounts which they had paid in. Suddenly the government, seemingly for no reason whatever, changed the order; retiring civil servants were told that they would be paid only on their salaries. The money paid into the fund on living allowance was refunded or an order was made that it should be. This was a most unjust, and, to me, an absolutely dishonest ruling. It is just as though one of you gentlemen had paid for life insurance amounting to $5,000 or $10,000. You paid your premiums year in and year out and you died. Your wife and family went to the insurance company to collect the insurance and were told by the officials, "Yes, true; we are sorry. Your husband did pay the premiums but we have decided that we can hardly afford to pay you the $5,000 or $10,000, so we will give you half." I have been told that the government should never have made this promise. I am not disputing that, but the government did make the promise. When a man retires, too old to take out other insurance, too old perhaps to work, why should he then be cheated in connection with what he has paid in?

As regards the Yukon-and I may say it is about all I know in this world-one heavy


The Budget-Mrs. Black (Yukon)

charge that is made against us is on account of the telegraph line through northern British Columbia. I would suggest that the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Hanson) try to get the government to put part of that charge on his constituency because it certainly is not fair that the Yukon should be charged with an amount of money which is spent in British Columbia.

Our government in the Yukon consists of a commissioner and council of three members, elected one from the Whitehorse district, one from the Dawson district and one from the Mayo district. I do not believe that in any place in Canada to-day is a more honest effort made by any government in power to spend every dollar to the greatest advantage. Our crying need is always roads, and yet more roads. This year the government in power has seen fit to be more generous to the Yukon, and the mining industry, which is the backbone of our life there, will benefit by that generosity.

In the early days of the Yukon mining was carried on largely by individuals, but in a few years that was changed. Huge grants of land were given to political favourites. One mining recorder walked from Daw'son to The Porks at night and reported to the government at Ottawa that the tract of land over which he had walked in a few hours was not fit for individual mining, and these huge concessions were given to pampered favourites. The Klondike concession, forty miles of the Klondike river from rim to rim, the richest country in the Yukon, was originally given outright. The concession has changed hands from time to time until finally it is now owned by the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation Limited. That company has put up hundreds of thousands, nay millions of dollars, but owing to dishonest, corrupt or incompetent managers, it has always been in the red. It has changed its managership within the last year. During the recent campaign, in every small public meeting I held, I did not hesitate to say that the bunk houses furnished by this company for its men were not fit habitations for a well-bred dog. I am told that this company is now putting up, notwithstanding its failures in the past, another two million dollars this year. It is putting this money into new dredges; it is adding to its hydraulic machinery; it is digging new ditches, and there are also to be new camps for its men. I had letters recently saying that some of these bunk houses, the new ones, are well built, with large rooms, but as yet no accommodation for bathing, showers or anything of that sort has been provided for the men. This is not quite fair.

Then, too, our work in that country is practically all seasonal; when the men sign on they sign on for eight hours, ten hours, or even twelve hours a day, and when these men sign on for the summer work for ten or twelve hours a day they must sign a paper saying that they will work for twenty-five cents an hour for any extra hours. That is not just. Someone may say: But why do they sign on then; why do that work? Well, I would say to you men here: If you had a wife and family or if you had no other way of living than by taking that work you would certainly take it if you were honest and decent and preferred to work rather than be on relief. The men work so hard during the summer of five, six or seven, and in very rare cases eight months, that they become almost automatons. They are worn out; they are weary; they are dragged, and they have little at the end of those eight months to show for the work they have done. One may say that they need not sign on, but they must sign on if they would do anything.

Then, again it is said that living up there is so much cheaper. Well, living is cheaper than it was in the early days when we had to pay $1 a pound for sugar and S3 a pound for butter, and everything else accordingly. Now, while living is cheaper, bread still costs twenty-five cents a loaf. In the summer when the fresh fruit comes in, watermelons are $3 apiece; honeydews or muekmelons-and we seldom get a muskmelon-are from SI .50 to $250. Chickens the year round run from $2.25 to $3.50 each, depending upon the size of the bird and the time of year. During the summer in the north we pay S18 a cord for wood, $10 a month for water for the house and garden, and $10 a month for our telephone.

So it does not seem to me that any reasonably minded man should hesitate if we could pass a minimum wage law in that north country providing for, say $4.50 a day for an eight hour day, with board, and for the extra hours accordingly. The past government tried to put through $1.25 for the regular hours. We have an eight hour law in the Yukon, but the government official who drafted that law' is also an official and director of this mining company. I must say that the hon. Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers) gave me an interview the other day and said that he would carefully consider this matter of the eight hour law in the north. At the present time the price of gold is twice what it was when the company first commenced work and had to

The Budget-Mr. Elliott (Kindersley)

work under much more difficult circumstances than now.

We in the north are anxious to do what we can. I do not think we complain. We want to do the best we can not only for the north but for Canada as a whole. I think in my thirty-eight years of living in that north country I could count on the fingers of one hand the men who preferred loafing to working-yes, and then I would have several fingers left.

Under no circumstances do I wish to be unfair or to put an unnecessary handicap on industry. I want to be fair to the men who elected me. They were the labouring men of the Yukon. I want to be just as fair to the company which did everything in its power to prevent my election, because I understand perfectly well that no matter where we are, labour needs capital and capital needs loyal labour, and if capital and labour are always ready to spring at each other's throats the rest of us are hurt and the world is hurt.

The Yukon is pleased to learn that the topographical and mining surveys are to be continued this coming summer. I would only like to be allowed to suggest to the hon. Minister of the Interior (Mr. Crerar) that his deputy consider putting on these mining surveys some of our own boys in that north country.

I was elected as Yukon's representative by the combined vote of stand-pat Conservatives, friends of thirty odd years standing, and as well by the support of a number of genuine Liberals who were certainly not well treated by the representatives of their party in British Columbia and the Yukon. The Yukon is an enormous territory with great potentialities, and I would like to feel that the two ministers in the government who are most interested in that territory, the hon. Minister of Labour and the hon. Minister of the Interior, would visit us. They would receive the warmest kind of welcome. A few years ago it would have taken them weeks, nay months to make the trip, but with present day flying conditions they could make the trip from Ottawa to Dawson and return, going by way of the Hudson bay if they so desired, in less than two weeks. They would see things at first hand and could understand better than ever our needs and necessities. While not always agreeing with the policies of the government, as I said before, I do wish to thank the ministers for what they have done this session to help the Yukon. Again I extend an invitation to the members of the government to visit us and to know at first hand what we need.

Mr. O'. B. ELLIOTT (Kindersley): Mr. Speaker, I welcome the criticism of the hon. member for Huron North (Mr. Deachman), because I believe that any policy which cannot stand the criticism of this House of Commons is not worth advocating. I expect the minister will hear more in reply to the criticisms the hon. member has made. I wish to associate myself with hon. members who have extended congratulations to the Minister of Finance (Mr. Dunning) upon the very impressive manner in which he presented his budget speech. I am sure that all those within hearing distance must have been impressed with the sincerity with which he delivered his speech. However, things were different when one was away from the influence of his great personality. Upon rereading his speech we then saw that there were some things lacking in the fulfilment of our desires. It takes a considerable amount of, I might say intestinal fortitude for a new member to attempt to criticize an important document of this kind, and in speaking this afternoon I speak more in the spirit of suggestion than in that of criticism.

Practically every thoughtful person must have given considerable study to the various systems by which we hope to realize our desires in obtaining a solution of the present difficulties in our economic system. Reviewing some of the assertions made by different ministers with regard to cooperation between th federal government and the various provincial governments, I found a piece of legislation passed by the Saskatchewan legislature. Bill No. 120, an act to amend the Local Improvement Districts Relief Act, is somewhat in fine with the principles that have been advocated. Section 2 reads as follows:

The minister may make advances by way of loan to settlers resident in local improvement districts or in rural municipalities for the purchase of food, clothing and building material, for medical and hospital care and treatment, for the purchase of work stock, milch cows, brood sows, poultry, feed, fodder' petroleum products, seed, machinery, implements, repairs to implements and parts and binder twine, for the payment of freight on settlers' effects, homestead entry fees, timber or hay permit fees and for improvements on crown lands and other lands, for the purpose of breaking land, the surveying of drainage of land for settlement purposes, and the moving and reestablishment on land of persons on relief or about to become public charges.

The only difficulty in connection with this bill is to be found in section 1, which reads as follows:

Subsection 1 of section 5 of the Local Improvement Districts Relief Act, as amended by section 4 of chapter 38 of the statutes of 1934-35, is further amended by striking out


The Budget-Mr. Elliott (Kindersley)

the words "at the rate of four and one-half" in the sixth line and substituting "at a rate not exceeding six."

Subsection 2 of section 2 reads:

Every loan made under subsection 1 shall be a charge upon all the property, real and personal, of the person to whom it is made and shall be repaid at such time or times and in such manner as the minister may by regulation provide.

It seems to me that our financial system is always trying to saddle our people with the maximum load of interest they can bear instead of making a minimum rate, which is the most desirable. In Saskatchewan the rural population is 79-7 per cent of the whole and the welfare of the whole province is vitally dependent upon the success of the farmers. During the last five years the equilibrium of the province has been upset because of financial conditions which have compelled many farmers to seek avenues of revenue besides the farm. Many of them have gone to the towns to open up business ventures of various kinds. Most horn, members are familiar with the law of diminishing returns. A town with a given population can support only a given number of business places. Many of these farmers have opened up stores, trucking concerns, garages and other places of business, and the result has been disastrous to many of the old established places. Many of these old firms had extended credit to farmers during the difficult days of crop failures and they were forced to compete with new ventures which were opened up debt free and carried on mostly on a cash basis. The result was that many of the older firms eventually went into bankruptcy.

It seems to me that Canada is making exactly the same error in connection with our transportation system. We built thousands of miles of railway lines and then we proceeded to construct highways practically parallel to the railway lines to serve a population which was not increasing at the same ratio as we increased our transportation facilities. The trucking business is not sufficiently well controlled, as far as financing is concerned, and it is not compelled to abide by any fixed charges.

At six o'clock the house took recess.

After Recess

*The house resumed at eight o'clock.

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April 24, 1936

Mrs. BLACK (Yukon):

When this superannuation question is being considered will the minister consider also the condition of many retired civil servants in the Yukon who were so dishonestly and corruptly treated by the previous government?

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April 6, 1936

Mrs. BLACK (Yukon):

An hon. member this afternoon, when asked by members on the government benches what he would suggest, said that he was not paid to give advice to the government. May I be allowed to differ from that statement? Why should each member of the house be paid $4,000 a year, less five per cent, if our advice is not to be given when asked for- I do not know that the government will always take that advice, but a very wise man once said, " In the multitude of counsellors there is safety," and it does not hurt even the government to listen to a backbencher, even though that advice is not taken.

With all due respect to the right hon. leader of the government and the hon. Minister of Labour, I suggest that one of the persons appointed to this commission be a woman. The women of Canada have something over fifty per cent of the voting power. We all know that they spend at least three-quarters of the money that is brought into the homes, and I may add that when we have an opportunity we are good spenders, and that is what keeps the shopkeepers and the manufacturers and the farmers occupied. As the women of Canada have that amount of voting power and of spending power, surely the government will realize that one woman on that commission can be of some help. Thousands of women during the last few years of depression felt that they could be of help if only they had the knowledge to use their hands or their brains, and one woman on that commission could show the government how to pass that knowledge on to women in general. We know what the teaching of the crafts in the wonderful province of Quebec has done for women in the homes. It is not always necessary for women to go outside their homes to make money to help their families. By the nature of our being we must be home-makers; we have to bring up our children for service in the world, otherwise where would the world be, where would all the smart men in this house be? Women have to run the homes, and if they can be taught to use their fingers and to use their brains in their homes the government will be much better off, because when the family benefits the government is benefited. May I repeat my request to the right hon. leader of the government and the Minister of

Labour to consider when they appoint this commission, the selection as a commissioner of a woman of sympathetic human understanding and knowledge?

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March 9, 1936


Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention to say very much on this question because so much has already been so ably said. We all know that the minister who will have the spending of this money is sympathetic and will do his best, but when we read that there are men and women deprived of their sight who, because of lack of clothing, because of lack of health, are absolutely unable to leave their homes, it is enough to tug at the heartstrings of every man and women in this country. Private charity is called on to the utmost of its capacity, and we have to come to the government with our hands outstretched. Governments give money for raising the standard of grades, for raising the value of stock, and surely in some way the Minister of Finance (Mr. Dunning) can find a little money to help these blind people.

For fifteen years past I have sat in the gallery of the house and it has been borne in upon me more and more that if you really want help; if you really want to be assisted, you have almost to commit a crime. If you do murder, if you commit a theft, you are taken care of; you are fed and clothed and kept warm; but if nature commits a crime against you, it is sometimes very difficult to get help, and so in all sincerity I ask the government to consider what they can possibly do for these poor people.

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