May 2, 1938

MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS


The house resumed from Friday, April 29, consideration in committee of Bill No. 105, to assist in the alleviation of unemployment and agricultural distress-Mr. Rogers-Mr. Sanderson in the chair. On section 1-Short title. Mr. WrOODSWORTH: Mr. Chairman, this bill is along the lines of the legislation of previous years. I should like to get the minister if possible to state whether the administration is to be along the line of previous years. Since the discussion on Friday the report of the dominion commissioner of unemployment relief has been distributed. Surely it is not too much to ask the minister whether he proposes to proceed along similar lines next year. When legislation of this kind was first introduced it was confessedly emergency legislation; it included drought relief and unemployment relief. ' Drought is due to natural causes-according to the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett), due to an act of God. Unemployment, on the other hand, is undoubtedly due to the blundering of man. I do not know why the two should again be put together this year. Since unemployment can no longer be regarded as an emergency, it should not be dealt with by an emergency measure. Let us take the figures-and I am speaking now of relief apart from drought. I notice that in March, 1934, the numbers assisted, as reported by the provinces and the federal departments, excluding the drought areas, totalled 1,205,863; in March 1935, the number was 1,172,246; in March 1936, 1,240,074; and in March 1937. 1,045,766. Then unemployment dropped until in September of that year the number assisted was 543,336; but since that time the numbers on relief have been steadily increasing until we are back again in March to 848,497. So that the problem, far from having been solved, seems to be again on the increase. I submit that this type of relief is haphazard. It bears every mark of an improvised scheme and is wholly inadequate; there are many gaps and many people are suffering. Take transients. The development of this country called for a large number of unskilled or semi-skilled workmen, a huge mobile army that could be readily transported from one province to another. This army still exists, but its members cannot establish residence in any one province. That is the difficulty. There are some 4,000 of them now roaming the streets of Vancouver; many of them belong no more to Vancouver than to Ontario or Saskatchewan or Alberta. They are part of that great army. Vancouver city ought not to be called upon to take care of them, nor should the province of British Columbia, and jret this government looks to the province to do this sort of thing. It will be said, of course, that the difficulty is inherent in our constitution, but it seems to me that we must find some way to get around it. Since the discussion on Friday two memoranda have been sent to me from my own city of Winnipeg, one pleading for highway construction, and the other for help in the repairing and erection of school buildings. It may be said that under the British North America Act school buildings are obviously a school responsibility; but the province is almost bankrupt; and after all, why should we have expenditures on unneeded barracks, and not have expenditures on needed homes? WThy should we have ornate public buildings in one part of the country, while in another part of the country we are not able to provide even for schools and hospitals? The hon. member for Fort William (Mr. Mclvor) in the discussion the other day spoke in favour of projects for youth training. I quite agree with him, but I would point out that the training of youth is worth very Relief and Agricultural Distress little unless it is supplemented by work for the young people so trained. Are we going to have to wait and wait until possibly a war breaks out or some other catastrophe of that kind overtakes us before granting to our youth what seems to me to be their inherent right, an opportunity to work? There is another matter I wish to mention in this connection and that is unemployment insurance. It ought to be an integral part of any scheme of this kind. The government promised that measure very definitely at the last election. They are pledged to unemployment insurance. I do not think they can very well escape responsibility by saying that one or two provinces object to the scheme. The problem is still there. Ways and means were found, in regard to old age pensions, whereby the measure was actually put into operation even though a number of the provinces were opposed: and now even the provinces that were opposed at that time have fallen into line. We have a right to ask the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers) or the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) who is now in his seat, to tell us whether the government proposes at this session to bring down unemployment insurance. We hear a great deal from members of this house about the pioneering spirit. We are told that a great many of the unemployed ought to get out and work as the pioneers did. But surely anyone who makes this statement must realize that conditions are very different now from the conditions under which our pioneering forefathers came to this country and established homes for themselves. They were able to push into the wilderness, to conquer new territory, to discover new resources and to invent new methods. Why should not. we in this house exhibit the pioneer spirit? It seems to me that it is our duty in these days to do pioneering in our modern industrial, commercial and social environment. What is the use of following along day after day, week after week, year after year, the old principle of giving doles to beggars? If we had one-tenth of the spirit of the pioneers we in this house would invent some new way of dealing with unemployment. As I said on Friday, I hesitate to criticize the Minister of Labour in this fashion, because there is no member of the cabinet for whom I have a higher regard; but I must insist that the government must be held responsible for this situation. The hon. member for Cochrane (Mr. Bradette) I believe it was, pleaded for cooperation. We are very willing to cooperate, but every member of the house knows that members in opposition-for that matter any private member cannot bring in a money bill. We know that according to the composition of the house the government has an enormous majority, and the government in taking office takes the responsibility of dealing with this situation. I do not think the minister is justified in simply bringing in an enabling bill without giving us a very much fuller explanation than he has hitherto done of what the department and the government propose to do with this question, which he himself admits is one of the most important questions before the Canadian people to-day.


CCF

Abraham Albert Heaps

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. HEAPS:

Before the clause carries I hoped that the minister might have given an answer to my hon. friend's question. The other evening I discussed the question of relief allowances, and the minister informed me at that time that the government have very little control over the amount of relief that is granted. I do not know exactly what methods are adopted by the department to control the amount of relief granted in the various municipalities. But in introducing this measure a few weeks ago the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers) referred to the fact that there are certain districts in Canada where it was claimed that the relief scales were too high, or were competing in recent years with the labour market. When I raised this question the other night I had in mind the fact that in the Winnipeg district those in charge of the granting of relief were laying down certain scales of expenditures to apply to persons who, previously in receipt of relief, were working either on public projects or in private undertakings. I gave figures showing how much the recipients of relief were receiving. Now I am going to give the amount that a person working is allowed to spend. I want the committee to understand the importance of the implications of an organization laying down limits to the amount which persons who happen to have been in receipt of public relief may spend.

In Winnipeg the amount allowed to a husband and wife on relief was S12.76 for rood and S14.17 for rent, light, etc., making a total of $26.93 per month. Of course this does not include a great many things which are necessary to existence, such as clothing. According to the rules being laid down for the Winnipeg district it appears that if the husband is working the <;ouple will not be allowed to spend more than $50 per month. If they do, and if they go on relief again, they will find themselves penalized. For a household of five persons the maximum expenditure allowed is $80 per month. If they spend more and subsequently have to go on relief-and such greater expenditures may be unavoidable by reason of sickness for example

Relief and Agricultural Distress

-they will not be given public relief unless they can show to the relief commission exactly how that money has been spent. Now in this a vital principle is involved, and the government cannot absolve itself of responsibility. The minister claims that in some districts the scale of relief is too high, so he must have had something in mind. And when relief bodies lay down regulations as to how much a month a person who has received relief may spend, they are interfering with the standard of living in a way in which I think it ought not to be done by any public body. I should like to know whether the government are in any way responsible for these regulations. If they are not directly responsible I would ask the minister whether the government have approved of any of these regulations by control over the amount of money that is spent in any municipality.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

Taking up first the question raised by the hon. member who has just spoken, the determination of relief allowances has always remained with the municipalities, subject to provincial regulations. In the agreements between the dominion and the provinces covering the grants in aid, as I indicated last week, provision was made during the last quarter of the past year that the relief scales should not exceed the normal earnings of the individual or family. The intention of that was to prevent relief scales competing with the labour market. Apart from that we have not exercised any control whatsoever over the relief allowances in the various provinces and the municipalities within the provinces, nor do we approve the specific regulations made in the municipalities. My hon. friend will understand that those who are closest to the situation are in a far better position to do that than any officials of the dominion Department of Labour would be. There is a great diversity of relief allowances across this country from Prince Edward Island to Vancouver, and. as I pointed out before, even within the provinces there is great diversity. I know of no way in which you can deal with that satisfactorily under existing conditions except to leave it with the municipalities who are primarily concerned.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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CCF

Abraham Albert Heaps

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. HEAPS:

Does the minister approve of these municipal or other bodies associated with the granting of relief laying down rules as to the amount a family may spend during the time they are off relief?

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

There is also a provision in the recent agreements with the provinces whereby there may be assistance through budgeting during the time they are off relief, in order that those who had been on relief

may be helped to spend their earnings in the most provident way. The whole intention is rather to give assistance to those who have been on relief, not to embarrass or handicap them in their reestablishment.

May I return to the series of questions raised by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth). I have no doubt they will be raised again in another form after we get beyond the title clause of the bill.

The first point he raised was with regard to the wisdom of separating agricultural relief from unemployment relief. In that connection he referred particularly to relief in the drought areas. He may not have been in the house the other day when I pointed out that when we were obliged to meet a recurrence of the drought situation in the autumn of last year it was decided that it would be preferable that the administration of direct relief in the drought areas should be placed where the administration of other forms of relief in the drought areas had already been placed, namely with the Department of Agriculture. That has been done, and will be continued.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I understood that,

but why bring in an omnibus bill which includes these very diverse types of relief in one measure ?

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

The reason lies in the

fact that we proceed under the broad provisions of this bill to enter into agreements with the various provinces concerning the administration of particular forms of relief. For instance during the past year we would normally have had as many as five agreements with the western provinces covering direct relief, youth training, joint works projects, and the various forms of drought relief. Under the broad provisions of this bill we enter into agreements with the provinces covering the various measures of relief.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

What about transients?

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

We have dealt with the

provinces. We have recognized that transients ought not to be a direct burden upon the municipalities. At the same time there has been during the past teii years a constant movement of transients back and forth across the country.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

For the past

twenty-five years or more.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

I am willing -to

agree that it has gone on much beyond ten years. It has been a feature of the growth of this country, as my hon. friend has said.

Relief and Agricultural Distress

But in other years these transients might have been regarded as seasonal workers. They were usually able, at least they were willing, to find seasonal work which would carry them through the year without having to depend in any way upon state assistance. During the very severe years of the recent depression provision was made for these single unemployed transients by me'ans of the relief camps established under the Department of National Defence. As many as 25,000 of these single unemployed were sheltered in these camps during the winter months. As my hon. friend is aware, that number was reduced very much during the summer months, in fact many of the camps were closed during that period. We prepared for that situation in a way which is fully understood by hon. members of the committee and I shall not go into it in great detail at this time.

We provided that the dominion and the provinces would assume responsibility for caring for these single homeless men during the winter months. This has been done by means of the farm employment plan in the prairie provinces and the forestiy conservation camps in British Columbia. In all cases these plans have operated within restricted seasons of the year, normally from mid-October until April or May. When the severe winter season had passed many of those who had found temporary shelter or employment under these plans for transients went to various occupations of a seasonal nature. By means of these plans we have stabilized the problem, at least during the winter months, at which time it used to be very severe.

I am sure the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre will agree that the provisions made during the last two or three years for the single unemployed under the farm employment plan have certainly reduced the number who would have been receiving meals at the centres where meals were given out in Winnipeg. I have seen the figures and I am sure he is fully aware of that fact, regardless of what opinion he may have of the plan. We have undertaken that burden in conjunction with the provinces and naturally we have followed the advice of the provincial authorities as to what plans were best suited to their needs.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

With regard to the situation in British Columbia, I do not think it was adequately dealt with by the minister's statement. Why should the province in which a man happens to find himself when up against it have to be burdened with his care when he is not able to establish residence? The various offices having to do with social work generally insist that a man must establish residence before he comes under a certain scheme, but I do not think these men are any more a responsibility of a particular province than they are of any other province in which they may have happened to be for the last two or three years.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

That principle has never applied to any of the projects intended to care for the single homeless unemployed men. We have never applied a strict residence qualification. In British Columbia there has been a restriction as to the date beyond which a transient entering the province would not be employed on a particular project. That restriction was applied with the full approval of the provincial authorities. We have applied the most liberal residence provisions in connection with the employment of transients, either on the special projects or under the farm employment plan. As a matter of fact it is very difficult to determine the domicile of many of these transients in British Columbia. According to the latest report I have seen, of a total number of, say, 4,000 previously employed in the forestry conservation camps in British Columbia, possibly 1,800 came from outside the province. The presumption is that the remainder could establish domicile in British Columbia. However, there are two forms of transiency, transiency within the province and that which might be termed interprovincial transiency. There is a movement from city to city within a province and a movement from one province to another. That is why in dealing with that special aspect of the general problem we have tried to meet the provinces upon the basis of our accepting with them the responsibility for the care of these transients through the severe winter months. Our past experience has shown that during the summer months, when seasonal employment is available, it is not necessary to .provide this type of employment.

There is another thing which has been made perfectly clear from our experience and to which I am sure my hon. friend will agree. If you establish more favourable conditions for employment for a certain type of transient in one province than for another, you at once aggravate the problem in that province. You cannot give preferential treatment to a particular group of unemployed. In other words, you could not readily defend the establishment of works projects which would be confined exclusively to a particular group. That is why in suggesting works projects in other yehrs we have made them as readily available to married heads of families on relief as to the single unemployed.

Relief and Agricultural Distress

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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CON

Howard Charles Green

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GREEN:

Is there any reason why the city of Vancouver should be forced to care for these single unemployed transients who are not from Vancouver? As the minister has just said, a large proportion of them are not even from British Columbia. Is there any reason why the citizens of Vancouver should have to pay for these men during the few weeks in the spring after the camps close and in the fall before the forestry camps are open?

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

My impression is that the municipalities generally have not been held responsible for the care of these men apart from special projects. Assistance is given by the dominion to the provinces through grants in aid which are supposed to cover relief generally within the province, in no way excluding what may be done for these single unemployed men.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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CON

Howard Charles Green

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GREEN:

These men cannot be allowed to starve. They go out with tin cans to collect money and many of them have been put in gaol. They have developed quite a technique in collecting money in the city. The result is that the citizens have to pay. Surely the dominion government should be able to make some provision to prevent the placing of this burden upon the citizens of the city. This condition is worse in Vancouver than in any other part of Canada. I believe we have more transients who drift into the city. I urge the minister to endeavour to find a solution for this problem, which arises every year. -

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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CCF

Angus MacInnis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacINNIS:

When I spoke during the debate on the second reading of this bill on Friday last I drew to the attention of the house the situation existing in Vancouver. I pointed out that at the end of March this year there were approximately 6,900 persons on relief, that is, heads of families and single unemployed transients, but not including dependents of heads of families. I pointed out also that that was about one thousand less than at the same time last year. To take effect either on March 15 or April 1 the provincial government is compelling the cities and municipalities of British Columbia to take over the burden of the relief of a considerable number who heretofore have been cared for by the province. I received yesterday from Vancouver a statement of the number of cases and the monthly expenditures in connection with their keep. While at the end of March of this year the number of cases was one thousand less than last year, beginning with the first, of April 3,445 new cases have been placed on the relief list in the city of Vancouver. I presume that other cities and

municipalities had additions to their lists as well, but I am not conversant with that.

It is quite impossible for the city of Vancouver with falling revenues to take care of the increasing numbers of relief cases. The monthly cost for these 3,445 persons is computed at $34,072; that is for food, clothing and shelter, and does not take into account medical attention and other incidentals. The method that is now being followed in my opinion will never deal with the unemployment situation definitely or satisfactorily. We have to realize that the people can get their sustenance only from the industries of the country. It does not matter how it comes to them; it comes from industry in the last analysis, and this government will have to tell the owners of . industry that either they must so operate their industries that they will support the people of this country, or the government will organize industry for that purpose.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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CON

Alexander McKay Edwards

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. EDWARDS:

How can they do it?

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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CCF

Angus MacInnis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacINNIS:

How otherwise are you going to end unemployment?

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF
Subtopic:   MEASURE FOR ALLEVIATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS
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May 2, 1938