I shall quote one example. Since being elected to the house I have heard members opposite blaming the government for the unemployment situation as it exists. We certainly recognize it is serious but, in the first place, that is not a fair charge.
The minister and many hon. members have pointed out that the major causes of the unemployment problem have been inherited by this government from the previous one. Whether or not this government is responsible for the unemployment situation, if we are blamed for it then surely we should be given credit if that situation is relieved. The hon. member for Peterborough yesterday, as is reported at page 412 of Hansard admitted first of all-no doubt reluctantly-that there was an improvement in the unemployment situation. Then he said:
This does not result from anything this government has done.
I know the opposition have to criticize, but certainly there should be a measure, even a small measure, of fairness. That is another example of irresponsibility from the far left side of this chamber. I think most hon. members, at least those on our side, recognize these things and I think the people of Canada are understanding that these kinds of statements will always come from that side.
Coming back to the value that this winter works incentive program has been relieving the unemployment situation, last night the Minister of Labour very effectively indicated the effect of this program on the unemployment situation in Canada. Neither the minister nor anyone on this side of the chamber has ever claimed that this is a panacea. This is not a cure-all. Many other measures have been taken by this government to relieve this serious problem. This is but one of them and, as was intended in the first place, this measure has been most successful.
I wish to refer to some figures for the greater Victoria area. I cannot break down these figures by municipalities because in my area the figures released from the national employment service are for the greater Victoria area. In the greater Victoria area since the inception of this program the federal government payment to four of the municipalities has amounted to $837,000. In addition to that, of course, the provincial government pays at least another 25 per cent of the direct labour costs. This brings the sum total of the payments received by the municipalities in that area to some $1J million.
As hon. members know, our wage rates in British Columbia are very high. Assuming that
the labour content of works undertaken by the municipalities is between 30 and 33 per cent, this represents some 400,000 man hours of work on site; that is, work created right on the spot by this program. That does not take into consideration the other work created by way of supplies and the use of equipment in this program. In my opinion this is a very substantial contribution to creating employment for the people in that area. I know that not only the municipalities but the local councils and the people in the area appreciate the assistance that has been given through this program.
The hon. member for Skeena tried to convey the idea that this winter works incentive program has been a failure because it merely shifts work from the summertime to the wintertime. He quoted a statement of Reeve Alan Emmott of Burnaby to the effect that in that municipality-and, he said, in the surrounding district also-200 people are not being released. I am relying on my memory here. Reeve Alan Emmott was quoted by the hon. member for Skeena as saying that they are not taking on any more men for the winter works program, but they are not releasing some 200 men who would otherwise have been released.
My interpretation of that statement is that if the winter works incentive program had not been there, the municipality of Burnaby would have released 200 men. What is the difference between taking on 200 men for special work and retaining 200 men who would otherwise have been released? Surely that argument falls to pieces when the hon. member tries to indicate that this winter works program is merely creating work in the winter that would otherwise have been done in the summer. In my own experience that is not so. I know that in my municipality and elsewhere in my riding a great deal of the work that has been done has been directly prompted by this program and would otherwise not have been done, not because the councils were not aware of the value and the need of these works but because they, as I have said, have difficulty in financing these projects which are demanded by the people. This program has prompted these people to undertake projects which would not otherwise have been undertaken.
The second point the opposition have been trying to make is that this program does not create employment in the winter. I am privileged to quote from the daily Colonist of January 6, 1962. This is a newspaper owned by the Sifton-Bell group. The headline in the Colonist of that day reads:
More people working than in past decade-
Year end unemployment figures, a sensitive barometer of the island community prosperity, indicate
a healthier employment situation even for this time of year than at any time in the past decade.
National employment service officers report a drop of some 30 per cent in the number of people seeking work compared with the same period a year ago.
Using Victoria's figures as an example it is noted that the percentage of increase in unemployment between August and November in some years has risen as much as 109 per cent. Unemployment during this critical four month period soared by a whopping average of 90 per cent during the years 1954 to 1957.
In 1961 the increase during this period was only 18 per cent.
Can those figures be construed as purely coincidental, with such a remarkable increase in employment in this period, even in my area where the impact of winter is not as severe as in other parts of the country? Can this be construed, as some hon. members opposite try to say, as being purely coincidental? Certainly not, sir. The increased employment during this period was caused first, as a direct result of this winter works incentive program and second, of course, by the over-all rise in the economy resulting from measures taken by this government. Certainly, it is the responsibility of the opposition to criticize, but we expect a certain measure of recognition for what has been done, a grain of fairness from hon. members opposite. I am one of the three youngest members of this house and I must say it is not easy to understand all the circumstances surrounding this debate. I have been here listening for three days. It was made clear at the beginning that hon. members opposite would vote in favour of this measure and approve this vote. I felt I should speak on the question, but when I heard that the opposition had been going on after lunch today, I could not understand why that should be so. One of the reasons which occurred to me was that they did not desire this measure to be passed. I know the municipalities are anxious to get their cheques, and I dismiss that possible reason for the delay in getting this vote.
Having heard the leader of the house say that the next item of business has to do with old age pensions, it occurs to me that maybe members of the opposition are not anxious to have that question discussed in the house. I certainly hope the show we have seen here today will not be carried on indefinitely. I know that on this side we are not only anxious to dispose of the present measures so that the municipalities may get their cheques, but we are anxious to get on to the next important item which, we have been told, has to do with increases in old age pensions, old age assistance and assistance to blind and disabled persons.
In my view the effect of this winter works program on the municipalities has been unreservedly good. First of all, the scheme has been well received. It has been appreciated by municipal councils across Canada. In addition, it has been appreciated by the people. This is one of the programs put forward by the government in respect to which it is easy for the taxpayers, the property owners and the public generally to appreciate the benefit of what has been done. Some of the other programs, as I have said, have not been passed on by the provincial governments and they have not been recognized by the people as emanating from the federal government. I believe the people of Canada appreciate this program. The use made of this scheme by the municipalities has, moreover, shown evidence of sound judgment. This has been my experience of the work carried out by the municipal councils in my own area and I am sure that is true also of the municipalities throughout Canada. I am satisfied that the projects which the municipalities have submitted under this program are sound. They are not relief projects which create work merely for the sake of creating it. They are projects which the councils consider to be essential, in many cases.
Topic: DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR