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.