Personal Data

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)
Vancouver Kingsway (British Columbia)
Birth Date
September 2, 1884
Deceased Date
March 3, 1964
motorman, unionist

Parliamentary Career

July 28, 1930 - August 14, 1935
  Vancouver South (British Columbia)
October 14, 1935 - January 25, 1940
  Vancouver East (British Columbia)
March 26, 1940 - April 16, 1945
  Vancouver East (British Columbia)
June 11, 1945 - April 30, 1949
  Vancouver East (British Columbia)
June 27, 1949 - June 13, 1953
  Vancouver East (British Columbia)
August 10, 1953 - April 12, 1957
  Vancouver Kingsway (British Columbia)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1082 of 1083)

March 31, 1931

Mr. ANGUS MacINNIS (Vancouver South):

I should like to say a few words in

connection with the question raised by the hon. member for North Winnipeg (Mr. Heaps). Probably like many other members representing an urban constituency, I have received during the last few days many letters and resolutions from various organizations in reference to unemployment in the part of the country from which I come. Sharing a room in this building with my hon. friend from North Winnipeg I took these resolutions to him in the hope that out of

his wealth of experience he could tell me what should be done. He told me that he would move the adjournment of the house to bring the question before it. I asked him what support he expected to get. "Well," he said, "last year we had the whole Conservative party with us." "That looks very good," I said, "because there are a whole lot more of them in the house this year, so we ought to make quite a showing." But to my painful surprise, when the question was raised this afternoon it met with the active opposition of the Conservative party, who were so sympathetic when the same question came up last year, and that notwithstanding the fact that the situation at the present moment is worse than it was on the 31st of March last year. In my innocence I could not understand what had caused such a change. Is it possible that to move from one side of the house to the other can change men's minds so radically, although the outward circumstances have not changed in the slightest, in any event not for the better? When the house is not sitting I intend to sit for a few moments on the other side just to note the psychological effect.

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March 31, 1931


Perhaps, but you may

get over here.

In discussing this question, Mr. Speaker, I shall not approach it in a critical spirit It should be dealt with, I think, from at least four points of view. We should consider, first of all, the extent and the seriousness of the present conditions; secondly, what steps should be taken to meet the present pressing situation; thirdly, desirability of a full investigation of the causes of unemployment and of the economic depression; and lastly, what permanent steps may be taken to meet the situation generally and provide against these ever-recurring periods of depression.

Touching first on the seriousness of the situation, I am continuously in touch with my own city of Vancouver. Although perhaps there are not so many unemployed there now as a month ago, the number is very much greater than it was a year ago. Not only that, but the city's resources to meet the situation are not nearly so great as they were a year ago A deputation from the city of Vancouver met the cabinet of the local government at Victoria on the 23rd of March last. The chairman of the relief com-mitee pointed out to the government at that time that the city could not meet any funds that the government might have left

Unemployment-Mr. Maclnnis

over from the appropriation voted last September, and therefore the making of provision for the unemployed at Vancouver was up to the provincial government. On the same day a deputation waited on the city council to arrange for the reinstatement of 1,500 single men who had been cut off from relief under the act. On March 18, just a few days ago, 6,064 married men were securing unemployment relief. In view of a situation of that kind I think it rather strange that we have not heard a word from the government side of the house as to their intentions in connection with unemployment.

My hon. friend from North Winnipeg pointed out at the beginning of his remarks to-day that he had referred to this question about a year ago. May I quote a few words from Hansard of April 2, credited to the present Minister of Railways and Canals (Mr. Manion) He said:

Mi Speaker, I agree "with the hon. member who introduced this resolution that it is the most important problem facing our country to-day.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if the subject of unemployment was an important problem facing our country in the year 1930, when the situation was not as bad as it is to-day, when the financial resources of the municipalities were not depleted to the extent they are to-day, and when the financial resources of the people themselves were not depleted to such an extent, how much more serious must that problem be now? Yet we do not hear a word from the Minister of Railways and Canals.

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March 31, 1931


I was just about to move an amendment.

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March 20, 1931

Mr. ANGUS MacINNIS (Vancouver South):

I should like first of all, Mr. Speaker, to refer to an incident that happened in this house yesterday and again to-day when the Prime Minister was answering certain questions that had been asked by my hon. friend from North Winnipeg (Mr. Heaps). In reply, the Prime Minister stated that the intentions of the government would be manifest by their actions. We all remember that last June the Prime Minister was not quite so reticent in his replies. He was, on the contrary, very profuse and very emphatic in stating what the intentions of the government would be if he were at its head. Are we to assume that now he is in power we are not to have that frankness which he indulged in when he was in opposition?

I should not have taken up the time of the house at this stage to refer to Russia had it not been for certain remarks made by the hon. gentleman who preceded me (Mr. LaVergne) with respect to our relations with Russia. He said that chickens had a habit of coming home to roost. That is exactly what happened in connection with Russia. The chickens did come home to roost so far as the ruling class in Russia was concerned. I should like in this connection to refer to what Lord Macaulay said with reference to the civil war in Great Britain during the seventeenth century when King Charles lost his head.

I think his words are worthy of being quoted at this particular time. He said:

If it were possible that a people brought up under an intolerant and arbitrary system could subvert that system without acts of cruelty and foil}', half the objections to despotic power would be removed. We should, in that case, be compelled to acknowledge that it at least produces no pernicious effects on the intellectual and moral character of a nation. We deplore the outrages which accompany revolutions. But the more violent the outrages, the more assured we feel that a revolution was necessary. The violence of those outrages will always be proportioned to the ferocity and ignorance of the people; and the ferocity and ignorance of the people will be proportioned to the oppression and degradation under which they had been accustomed to live.

Is that not the case in Russia? If the Russian people were ferocious when they rose

in rebellion, it was because they had a ferocious ruling class in the first place. The same thing happened in the civil war in Great Britain. It was, as Lord Macaulay


Thus it was in our civil war. The heads of the church and state reaped only that which they had sown.

I would like my hon. friend from Mont-magny to take particular notice of that. Macaulay goes on:

The government had prohibited free discussion; it had done its best to keep the people unacquainted with their duties and their rights. The retribution was just and natural. If our rulers suffered from popular ignorance, it was because they had themselves taken away the key of knowledge. If they were assailed with blind fury, it was because they had exacted an equally blind submission.

If those remarks applied to Great Britain during that particular period, I am sure they applied equally well to Russia in the years prior to 1917. He refers to the enormity of the offence where four or five, six or seven or a dozen people were murdered and says not a word about the millions of workers who were murdered by the Czarist rulers? These were workers, and were not worthy of my right hon. friend's notice. They may kill all the working people they wish but if one of the ruling class is taken it becomes a criminal offence. In the view of the group around me the blood of the manual worker is just as precious as that of the greatest ruler in the land. He referred to the fact that we should have no dealings with Russia. As a matter of fact only a few commodities have been debarred from this country. We have not yet debarred caviare which the wealthy must have at their banquets. That commodity is allowed to enter the country fiee. At least it is allowed to come in without restrictions. We have not debarred gold. The Russian people can buy anything in this country with gold. The Minister of National Revenue (Mr. Ryckman) believes that the morals of the people of Canada would be corrupted if we were allowed to exchange machinery for coal, but if the same commodity is exchanged for gold our morals will not be harmed. What wonderful consistency. What wonderful logic the leading people of this government use.

Let me at this time refer to an editorial which appeared in the Vancouver Province quite recently. That is a Conservative paper, at least it gives support to the Conservative candidates. It did all within its power to defeat your humble servant at the last election. I assure you it did it's work very

The Address-Mr. Maclnnis

nicely and very subtly. I will quote briefly from this editorial as follows:

Canada has declared an economic war on Russia. That is what the order in council passed at Ottawa on Friday amounts to.

This is not the first time that Canada has made war on Russia without the courtesy of declaring war.

Several reasons are given for the passing of this remarkable order. It is stated that the government is convinced that forced labour is being used in the cutting of timber and the mining of coal. It is held that the standard of living in Russia is far below that in Canada. It is charged that the Soviet government seeks to impose its will on the world, and the statement is made that, since Canada, as a country, is opposed to communism, it must refuse to support it by interchange of trade.

Foreign trade is an entirely selfish thing.

We will all agree with that. Not only is foreign trade selfish but so is domestic trade; all trade as a matter of fact is selfish.

No country goes into it (foreign trade) with any other object than to benefit itself. Canada, as one of the half dozen or so leading trading nations of the world, should know this and should have learned by this time the recognized methods of caring for her own interests-and orders in council of the kind passed at Ottawa are not among them.

That is a quotation from a very respectable Conservative paper, but possibly it came very near the truth as to why these orders in council were passed. I have heard rumours that religious institutions in this country have brought pressure to bear on the government; those rumours may be true or may not be true. If the history of the past is any criterion I would say that it might be true. However that is not the point which is discussed by the Province:

It has been suggested that Russian timber and pulp being produced by forced labour would compete unfairly with Canadian timber and pulp. Very well. Keep them out. There are tariffs for that purpose. It has been suggested that Russian coal would take the market from Nova Scotia coal or from Welsh coal. That is a very good reason for not admitting it. But the coal Russia proposed to ship is anthracite and Canada buys from $20,000,000 to $30,000,000 worth of anthracite from the United States every year. What interest have we in protecting the Pennsylvania mine owners? Has the Smoot-Hawley tariff been so kind to us that we must rebuff a possible customer in the interests of Uncle Sam? He hasn't rebuffed Russia. Last year, while Canada's exports to Russia were falling off 50 per cent or so, American exports were growing. In fact, of the thirty-eight principal countries doing business with the United States in 1930, Russia was the only one that increased both its exports and imports.

The government may answer or they may not but is it not a fact that the reason for the embargo on Russian coal is that it may

be made possible for the American coal owners to ship their coal in here and the Canadian pulp manufacturers to ship their pulp wood to the United States. We have heard of conditions existing in the coal mines in the United States and if conditions in the mines of Russia are any worse they must be very bad indeed.

I regret that I have had to touch upon that particular subject at the moment because I believe there are other questions of more importance. It is in pursuance of that belief that I now add something to the discussion which has taken place in this house, something which has not been touched upon up to the present time. With a super-abundance of wealth such as the world has never known we find the greatest poverty that this country has experienced, and those two conditions exist side by side. That is the question we have to solve and it is one which has barely been touched upon up to the present time. Before coming to that point however there is another matter of consequence which I would like to mention. I spoke of it to certain of my colleagues in this corner; it is a matter which might occur to every new member of parliament. I refer to the seeming ineffectiveness and unbusinesslike way in which the affairs of this country are handled. They told me that in time, I would become used to this way of doing business. As a matter of fact they realize the ineffectiveness of our parliamentary methods and have become cynical. It seems to me Mr. Speaker, that if what has happened here during this week is any criterion of the expedition with which our economic ills are going to be remedied then the betterment of our conditions is indeed in the dim, distant future. Six hours and a half were taken by a vendetta between the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition. I think we are all agreed that the speech of the leader of the opposition which lasted about four hours and a half was a wonderful effort and I am satisfied that if the speech of the Prime Minister was not quite as effective in achieving its purpose it was because he is a very busy man and he does not have unlimited time at his disposal for preparation. What does it all mean? Can the problems of the country be solved by such means? Here we have two gentlemen endowed with intelligence above the average-at least we would wish to believe so-who in 95 per cent of the things they would be called upon to deal with in their ordinary business relations would not have the slightest difficulty in

The Address-Mr. Maclnnis

coming to an understanding; indeed, as a matter of fact an understanding would have been arrived at before they met formally. On the directorate of the great business organizations of this country we find Conservatives and Liberals sitting side by side, and certainly they have no difficulty in the world in so directing the policies of their corporations as to fleece the rest of the community. In the other 5 per cent where there might be any differences of opinion it is safe to presume that those gentlemen of conflicting political views would quickly come to a mutually satisfactory compromise. But when we come to deal with questions of national importance the whole situation is changed, and these same Conservatives and Liberals cannot agree on any single item of business that comes before this house; what those on one side propose the others on general principles must oppose. May I say for the benefit of those whom it may interest that the faith of the people in the efficacy of parliamentary institutions to solve our national problems is on the wane. And surely if the exhibition of futility that we have witnessed since the opening of this session is appreciated by the electorate, they certainly will have need of that faith expressed in our hymn-books:

Faith that will not shrink.

Though pressed by every foe:

That will not tremble on the brink

Of any earthly woe.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I like to be appreciative; it gives one a pleasant feeling. I have perused very carefully the speech from the throne to see if it conveys anything to call for my appreciation. I tried to find in it some promise of legislation that would improve the standard of living for the poor. I did not find very much, but for the little I did find I express my appreciation to the government. True, there are vague references to old age pensions and to continued aid for technical education, but even this is predicated on the satisfactory condition of the national exchequer. Well, if the treasury is not in a prosperous condition, let me remind the Prime Minister that there is an enormous amount of wealth in this country-not potential wealth, but wealth in commodities, in usable form, which is the only wealth there Is, that is if you exclude labour, which as a matter of fact is the foundation of all wealth. In the speech from the throne I find these words and they appeal to me very much because of their terseness, and at first I thought they might mean business:

The problems which stand between us and ultimate prosperity-

"Ultimate prosperity" has not been defined, but in case the Prime Minister may forget to define it for us I am going to give him the definition now: Ultimate prosperity, as far as I am concerned, is the highest standard of living for the masses of this country that the national wealth and their own willingness to produce will provide.

The problems which stand between us and ultimate prosperity are manifold and great. To be effectually met, they must first be understood. Confusion between cause and effect will but delay their solution.

I quite agree with that. But I am fearful there is considerable confusion in this house at the moment between cause and effect. It seems to me that must be the case because I have not heard anyone trying to explain the relation between a superabundance of wealth and extreme poverty. There must be a relation between these two conditions, and unless we find that relation we might as well go home and let somebody else make the attempt.

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March 20, 1931


Yes, we have a right to

know the intentions of the government in this respect, because the people are feeling the pinch of poverty. In this connection may I be permitted to read a despatch that appeared in the Vancouver Province of March 12. It is as follows:

Calgary.-Forced out of Vancouver when civic authorities cut off relief measures on Monday, scores of single unemployed are making the long trek from the coast city to Calgary, and no less than sixty men dropped off two freight trains on Wednesday evening, according to those who saw the men disembark west of Mewata park.

Officials of the Salvation Army hostel said on Thursday that the men are visiting the hostel in droves. They stated that the majority of the 1,500 men cut off relief in Vancouver will eventually find their way to Calgary.

The men are dirty, some of them are verminous, and all of them tell the same story. They were obliged to leave Vancouver when relief was cut off, and decided to stop off at Calgary in the hope of getting food and clothing.

The mayor of Calgary, Andy Davison, said:

I want to say emphatically right now that no relief will be extended to these men by the city of Calgary under any consideration. We have more than enough to do to look after our own unemployed. Begging on the streets will not be tolerated, and every effort will be made to keep these men moving.

But men without food cannot keep moving very long; it requires a certain amount of food anyway to enable them to do that.

There is nothing we can do to prevent them coming to Calgary, but no assistance of any kind will be granted to them by the city.

That is the situation in Calgary at this particular time, and what is the Prime Minister doing about it? He promised less than a year ago that no man in this country would be allowed to go hungry; yet here are men going hungry and in want while there is not a word in the speech from the throne as to what is going to be done with them.

This morning I received through the mail from Vancouver the following figures showing conditions on February 28, 1931. Unemployment at peak registered showed married men,

5,994; single men, 5,399; and women, 155. For various reasons very many more women than are registered are unemployed in Vancouver. But here you have 10,548 unemployed in Vancouver registered; and many more, who have been living on what little they could save since last they were employed, are in very dire circumstances indeed. All the funds for unemployment amount to just enough to keep 2,000 men working until the end of April. I was a member of the Vancouver city council last year and I know the situation is very much worse at the present time than it was then. We are told that in Russia there is forced labour. In this country we have forced idleness. Which is worse? Many of these men would be glad to have the opportunity of being forced to work but they cannot get it. Before we throw stones at other people let us clean up the mess on our own doorstep.

I have further figures showing the trend of conditions and they certainly do not suggest that we may look forward to any improvement in the near future. These figures are taken from the Labour Gazette and are supplied 'by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics. From January 1, 1928, to February 1, 1928, with 6,358 firms reporting, there was increased employment to the extent of 11,993. In 1929, from January 1 to February 1, with 6,391 firms reporting, there was an increase of 12,539 In 1930-and this was the year when we had a serious unemployment condition which the present Prime Minister admits existed and which the present leader of the opposition denies-there was an increase for the same month of 4,234. In the present year, from January 1 to February 1, with 74 more employers reporting, there is a decrease in employment of 8,085.

Does this show that there is any hope in the future of improvement? Is there any hope of a return to prosperity in the very near future? In the meantime what is to be done with these people? I think we are entitled to know, not only when action is to be taken, if it is taken at all, but when it will be contemplated.

If the leader of the government intends to put an end to unemployment I would suggest certain things for his consideration. I am quite sure that the leader of the opposition had nothing to do with bringing it about, and I am equally sure that the leader of the government will have just as little to do with putting an end to it. However, if he wishes to do something to relieve the situation there are certain things he can do. I wish I had time to attempt an explanation of the cause of unemployment, why it is we have distress


The Address-Mr. Maclnnis

in view of the enormous wealth we possess. But let me put it briefly in this way. Under our present social system production is carried on for profit. The worker must produce more than he gets in wages, and he can buy back only a certain amount of what he has produced; while the employers, the owners of the machinery, are limited by the amount that they can consume, as all human capacity is limited. There is a surplus over and above that, and that surplus is continually growing; and with areas where new development can take place becoming gradually more restricted, the amount of invested capital at the same time continually increasing, there is bound to be unemployment until that condition is remedied. There is only one way to remedy that condition at the present time, and that is by reducing the hours of work and increasing wages, so that more of the total product may go to the people as consumable goods and less be available for capital investment. That need not cause any particular trouble, inasmuch as what is available now cannot be invested because there is no place in which to put it.

That is the first suggestion I would make to the Prime Minister. The next is this, that he should find new fields of exploitation for capital awaiting investment. That is rather a hard thing for him to do, but he can take it into consideration. Then there is the possibility of the invention of some new utility which will do for the next decade what the automobile has done for the past.

There is one other alternative, and that is a world war. If we study the depressions that have prevailed in the past we shall- recall that we had a business depression in 1913, 1914 and 1915. That depression was dissipated by a world war. We had a business depression from 1921 to 1924, and that was dissipated by an enormous amount of money loaned by the United States to Europe, with the understanding that goods would be bought in the United States, following the reconstruction that took place in Europe after the devastations of the war. The change was also brought about by the enormous development of motor transportation and the amount of capital and labour that went into building that particular industry. It was also brought about to some extent by what we are pleased to call the deferred payment plan in purchasing. All these have reached their limit; the unemployment problem situation is becoming more acute and will continue to be so, and no amount of palaver in this house will solve it.

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