Mr. B. R. Leboe (Cariboo):
Mr. Speaker, you will recall that last evening I was discussing certain aspects of the unemployment situation, particularly management relations as they affect unemployment. At that time I mentioned that the purpose of plants and plant equipment is not only for management or operators to make money and make a profit but also so that people working in the particular industry can make a living.
Before I proceed with the next part of my address, I should like to make one thing perfectly clear. As a member of parliament I consider it my duty to represent all groups and no particular group to the disadvantage of some other group within an area, a province or the Dominion of Canada. I will admit that in doing so it becomes a little difficult at times to consider matters from the viewpoint of how they concern each and every individual. However, that is my stand, and this question must be dealt with fairly and squarely as it relates to everybody, whether they be workers in an industry, whether they be associated with it in some way or whether they be the managers.
As employment increases production increases, and people in the community all become better off provided there is distribution of the goods that are produced. It seems to me that so far we in Canada have not solved the problem of the distribution of the goods we produce. I hope to deal with that matter a little later, but in passing let me say that we should continue producing even if in the long run it means assisting those who are not as fortunate as ourselves and giving of our substance to those who are in need. We cannot blame workers for continually clamouring for higher wages and better conditions. The only way they have by which to increase their purchasing power is to ask for higher wages. Unfortunately, in looking back over the years and considering the fights that have been carried on for increased wages and salaries and the increases
obtained, we find that in spite of such increases purchasing power is almost exactly where it was a good number of years ago.
I can well recall that when people were getting 40 cents an hour they could buy butter for 17 or 18 cents a pound. Today we find that butter costs three times as much and that the average wage is three times as much or a little better. Therefore we have not come very far in that respect. But we find that labour, in its attempt to increase its purchasing power and its standard of living, is continually asking for higher wages, and so it must under our present financial and economic system. It is the only way in which purchasing power is brought into the hands of consumers.
It is very important that labour should have and strive toward good leadership of its unions. In that respect I should like to refer to a letter in the Prince George Citizen of February 8 which reads as follows:
While we are out hunting for subversive literature, let us not forget the subversion of the far right. Anyone opposed to unionism as a means of bringing the voice of labour to bear upon the problems of management is subversive or fascist. To say down with unionism is equal to saying down with democracy. Constructive criticism of the union's methods of achieving their desired ends is democratic and desirable. Criticism aimed at permanently destroying unionism is fascist and unhealthy.
That brings me back again to the point with which I started my speech, management-labour relations. We find that a great deal of the trouble leading to unemployment stems from labour-management relations which are not conducive to good employment. I think management can play an effective role in bringing labour and management together. Where there are unions I think management should assist and encourage those working in the plants in the obtaining of good leadership. In my opinion much can be done in that regard. In many parts of the country there is a need from time to time for recreational facilities and other projects which could be undertaken jointly by management and labour for the benefit of all concerned. If we had more vision concerning such matters and put forth greater efforts towards getting something done in this regard I think we would find a higher level of employment and increased production, and therefore a higher standard of living for all.
Many times both sides, management and labour, fail to present a true picture of their problems. I believe that heads of labour unions and those in management positions could well look into this matter from the point of view of getting people to present facts and not dodge issues. We find that in many
Proposed Committee on Unemployment cases union papers, the organs of organized labour, are blasting management, and management through the press is blasting labour and labour unions. In my view a great deal can be accomplished by union and management representatives sitting around a table and talking things over on a sound and sensible basis. I think that our efforts as members of parliament and the efforts of the government should be directed toward bringing about a realization of this responsibility.
Personally, I am opposed to the professional bargainer. I think it is wrong in principle, because the very existence of the professional bargainer depends on the animosity between the employer and the employee. I will agree that expert advice is desirable. I think we should have expert advice, but I believe it is wrong in principle for people to set themselves up in business as professional bargainers, because their livelihood depends on the animosity between the employer and employee. As soon as good will is created between the employer and the employee the professional bargainer is out of a job.
I feel that we would be better off and have a higher level of employment if bargaining were conducted on a local level as much as possible. I do not say that is always possible, but I think it is most desirable wherever it is possible. We would thereby avoid long lay-offs and unemployment due to strikes. As I said before, that is a very unhealthy situation. I do not think there ever was a strike in which labour was not caught in the squeeze. Labour is bound to be caught in the squeeze either way, whether they strike or whether they do not. The only way to avoid strikes is to get better relationships between employers and employees. I think we, as a government, could do a lot in that regard, as I shall mention a little later.
The other day we read a slogan which said, "Young Canada has a right to a job." I agree with that. I agree also that if young Canada has a right to a job, that means just what it says. I disagree heartily with the idea that people may not be allowed to work if they desire to work. If we are going to adopt the position that young Canada has a right to a job, then I think we must stay with it all the way down the line and not bar people from working if they so desire. During a strike we often find that people are barred from working, and unemployment rises continually in the strike area. I realize that the strike weapon is the only weapon labour really has, but on the other hand I
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Proposed Committee on Unemployment believe that it labour overplays that weapon they will find the effectiveness of it will be reduced.
Labour must take a sane and sensible approach to strikes. The further we get away from harmony between management and labour, the more likely it is that a condition will arise which will result in a strike. Strikes always mean a loss of time, not only to those who are in the industry concerned but to those in associated' industry. It is not always true either that when a strike is over the industry starts rolling again. I should like to quote again from the Prince George Citizen, in which there appeared an article under the heading "Strike Hangover cuts Mill Output". It reads:
Fort George forest district mills cut the smallest December post-war sawlog scale on record in the first month of the present B.C. forest branch year, statistics disclosed today.
Observers in the industry blame the low December cut on a ''strike hangover" and soft market prices.
The "strike hangover" they say will likely affect production during the first three months of the present forest branch year.
When the strike is over we do not always find full employment is possible. In the case of our forest industry we know that is true. A few years ago we had a strike in that industry, but when the men were ready to go back other factors stepped in and made it impossible for them to go back to work. There are forest closures and so on. Then, during that winter, it was found that the snow was so deep on the mountain slopes that work was impossible, so it became a difficult time for the workers in that area.
Mention has been made of projects to take up the slack of unemployment. In this connection we should bear in mind that money for these projects comes out of the taxpayer's pocket. Naturally, I feel they are desirable; but there is a way that the object could be accomplished without digging too deeply into the taxpayer's pocket. Under our present system, that is where the money comes from to meet these demands. As a result of our defence program we have an enormous production of non-consumer goods, which releases purchasing power in an increased volume.
It seems as though we are now entering a period in which credit buying is at an all-time high. People are trying to stretch their dollars. I was told, and I believe it is true, that one store in this city is offering television sets, without a down payment, for as low as $2.75 per week. Business is trying to keep going with a deficiency in purchasing power. We are entering a phase now where credit buying has almost reached the
point that it can no longer be continued. People are starting to pull back. This will mean lay-offs, cutting down in consumer purchasing power, and unless something is done to arrest it we will find ourselves in a depression. It is common knowledge that the new housing legislation was brought forth, primarily, not to build houses but to put more money into circulation with which people could buy goods and services. In other words, it was designed to release credit to the people. I say there is not a better method than housing to accomplish this purpose and reach the various industries throughout the country which would participate in such a scheme. But at the same time we feel that we must look farther afield and get into a position where we recognize the real root of the problem; and in my estimation that is a deficiency in purchasing power. The amount lost through this deficiency in purchasing power must reach the hands of the people through channels other than those of production. It must be supplemented. Many economists know- and this is not contradicted-that production does not release enough purchasing power to buy back that which is produced. If this is true, then it means that we must have purchasing power released into the hands of the people through means other than normal channels of production.
If our defence spending is to be curtailed, and that amount of energy is to be put into peacetime production, we are going to have a national credit of goods for which there is no purchasing power. But if we have that national credit, we also have a national debit in the form of our senior citizens, crippled children, the blind, veterans and so on. All social services constitute a national debit. If we have a national credit, then let us transfer some of that credit into the hands of those people who are struggling along on $40 a month.
If these are recognized facts in our economy-and I think they are-then let us move toward that goal by distributing purchasing power among those people, making that distribution against the national credit that we have. We could go farther and take up the slack of unemployment by going into the production, on a national scale, of highways, irrigation projects, power projects and so on.
I shall not discuss this point further, because I see the time at my disposal is slipping along. But for those who constantly refer to free enterprise as the bugbear in the present economic situation I should like to read some excerpts from Time magazine of February 15 dealing with the revolution in industry that
took place in Germany in the last few years. This undoubtedly will give our government some food for thought in respect of our problems here in Canada.
These excerpts are as follows:
West Germany throbs with its fabulous recovery while the East Germans under Soviet rule are on the brink of starvation ... In the Ruhr, bomb-shattered steel mills glow once more through the long winter nights. Germans who were once glad to sell their prized possessions for a few packs of cigarettes now have one of Europe's strongest currencies in their pockets. Shops are loaded with consumer goods and crowded with substantial-looking buyers.
Germany's rebirth is the kind of economic miracle Americans can understand. At a time when other European nations were leaning towards socialism, Germany plumped for free enterprise . . . "Turn the people and the money loose, and they will make the country strong." As a result, the free world is now blessed, on the one hand, by its strongest European bulwark against communism- and confronted, on the other, with a new trade competitor who has come up so fast that nobody knows quite what to do about it.
Believing that "labour and management must be unified into one big group that depends on the same success," Nordhoff called a meeting of his shabby work force. "I'm afraid I gave them a stiff shock," says he. "I told them their working methods and production were miserable. It was taking us 400 man-hours to produce one car. I told them we would cut this to 100 hours. They laughed at me. But today we do that."
To make the economy grow, economics minister Erhard ended rationing, removed controls, gave industry tax concessions to permit rebuilding and expansion ...
Last year gross national output hit a new high of $35 billion, 40 per cent above the 1936 figure for all of Germany. Items: Chemical output up 102 per cent over 1936; electrical equipment up 238 per cent; coal up 20 per cent; shipyards are now building 633,904 gross tons, second only to Britain's.
While West Germany has had to absorb 10 million refugees and expellees, unemployment is relatively low (1,000,000 last week), and the government has hopes of creating some 250,000 new jobs this year.
Anyone who says that free enterprise is the cause of the trouble in our economic situation should look at what has been done in Germany under a free enterprise system. Our problem here is one of distribution; and I think that as time goes on people across this country are going to wake up to the fact that there is a way out, and a way in which our goods can be distributed. They will realize there is a way to maintain our freedom as well as the distribution of our goods. And they will be looking to those of us sitting in this corner of the chamber, the Social Credit group, to lead the way.
Topic: EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Subtopic: UNEMPLOYMENT-MOTION FOR EXAMINATION BY COMMITTEE ON INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS