July 4, 1946


On the orders of the day:


PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GORDON GRAYDON (Peel):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to direct a question to the Minister of Trade and Commerce. Will he inform the house what steps are being taken and what progress is being made by the united nations economic and social council by way of preparation for the prospective world trade conference; and, when he is answering the question, will he say whether there is any possibility that the conference will be convened this year?

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL-PREPARATION FOR WORLD TRADE CONFERENCE
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LIB

James Angus MacKinnon (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Liberal

Hon. J. A. MacKINNON (Minister of Trade and Commerce):

I have had no notice of the question, and I am not sure that it is properly directed to the Minister of Trade and Commerce; but I shall confer with the Prime Minister and see what answer can be given.

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL-PREPARATION FOR WORLD TRADE CONFERENCE
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

May I point out that I delivered notice of the question to the minister's office at two o'clock to-day or thereabouts. Perhaps there has been some mishap.

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL-PREPARATION FOR WORLD TRADE CONFERENCE
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LIB

James Angus MacKinnon (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Liberal

Mr. MacKINNON:

The cabinet was in session up to half past two to-day, and that may be the reason for my not receiving it.

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL-PREPARATION FOR WORLD TRADE CONFERENCE
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

Perhaps the minister or the appropriate member of the cabinet will take the question as notice and have it answered to-morrow.

Topic:   UNITED NATIONS
Subtopic:   ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL-PREPARATION FOR WORLD TRADE CONFERENCE
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PRIVILEGE

MR. LENNARD-REFERENCE TO ARTICLE IN OTTAWA


"journal" OF JULY 3 On the orders of the day:


PC

Frank Exton Lennard

Progressive Conservative

Mr. F. E. LENNARD (Wentworth):

On a question of privilege, I wish to refer to an article that appeared in last night's Ottawa Journal, to the effect that Mrs. Fred Rose had conferred with a number of members of parliament in an effort to end the isolation of her husband in a Montreal gaol. In this article she is quoted as follows:

I believe I can say that all the members of parliament with whom I have talked have expressed themselves as against this policy of isolation . . .

I feel, Mr. Speaker, that this is a reflection on many of the members of this house, and

I want it distinctly understood that I was not one of those interviewed.

In this connection I should like to ask the Prime Minister if he can say when the seat for the riding of Montreal-Cartier will be declared vacant.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. LENNARD-REFERENCE TO ARTICLE IN OTTAWA
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

Until the pending appeal has been heard and a report of a conviction made to His Honour the Speaker from the court, the seat will not be declared vacant. Further consideration will be given the matter after the final decision of the court.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. LENNARD-REFERENCE TO ARTICLE IN OTTAWA
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BUILDING MATERIALS

SHORTAGE OF CEMENT IN SOUTHERN ALBERTA


On the orders of the day:


SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. J. H. BLACKMORE (Lethbridge):

May I ask the Minister of Finance whether he has taken occasion to look into the cause of the cement shortage in southwestern Alberta? The other day I asked whether he would be good enough to do so. That there should be a shortage of cement in Canada is something which it is beyond my power to understand.

Topic:   BUILDING MATERIALS
Subtopic:   SHORTAGE OF CEMENT IN SOUTHERN ALBERTA
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LIB

James Lorimer Ilsley (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Right Hon. J. L. ILSLEY (Minister of Finance):

I did look into the matter, and I intended to write to my hon. friend. When he asked the question I said I thought it was hardly a proper question to be answered before the orders of the day. However, the information that I have received is that there is no greater shortage in that part of the country than there is elsewhere, and the shortage is due to the heavy demand.

Topic:   BUILDING MATERIALS
Subtopic:   SHORTAGE OF CEMENT IN SOUTHERN ALBERTA
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UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT

CLARIFICATION AND EXTENSION OF PROVISIONS AND BENEFITS


Hon. HUMPHREY MITCHELL (Minister of Labour) moved the second reading of bill No. 243, to amend the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1940.


PC

Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt

Progressive Conservative

Mr. C. C. I. MERRITT (Vancouver-Burrard):

Speaking to the amendment which is now proposed to the Unemployment Insurance Act, I should say at the outset that for the most part, so far as one has been able to understand this very long bill in the short time at our disposal, the changes are very welcome indeed, and a revision of the act in the light of the past five years' experience is timely.

I was glad to note, when I read the report of the debate on this bill in the other place that the advisory committee is now looking

Unemployment Insurance

into the possibility of making some increases in the benefits payable under the act to unemployed persons with dependents. This is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. But since I understand that the scope of the investigation of the advisory committee went only so far as to permit consideration of what increases could be actuarially made without any increase in the rates payable under the act, I should not imagine that any such increases could be substantial. The disappointing thing about the amendment is that neither in the bill itself nor in the statement made by the minister is any hope held out that consideration will be given to making some fairly satisfactory increase in the benefits, if necessary by the increase of the rates payable; because of course this fund must be on an actuarial basis.

Now that we have come through the first year or so of peace, and for the first time use is being made of the benefits under the act b,v a substantial number of persons, there is general realization in the country that these benefits do necessitate a steep drop in income from the moment a person becomes unemployed. Take for instance the two top classes. A person earning from $80 to $100 a month, upon becoming unemployed, is reduced to between $48 and $54, and if he is in class 7 earning over $100 a month he gets not less than $57.60 and not more than $62.50 a month provided he has a dependent. Hon. members will realize that if one takes say $25 a month out of that amount for rent, which I believe is a reasonably conservative estimate for that item, there is not much elbow-room left for the unemployed person. It is perfectly obvious that if this scheme is to be successful it must be maintained on an actuarial basis; therefore, the benefit cannot be increased unless the government itself is prepared to make a greater contribution without an increase in rates.

I hope that consideration is also being given by the advisory committee and by the minister to the possibility of increasing the benefits, particularly to married persons, substantially above the sum of $14.40 a week, which is the maximum possible, even though it might mean some increase in the rates payable. I hope that some scheme can be worked out under which these increased rates would not bear too heavily on a person while in employment. Naturally all these matters have to be taken into consideration by the experts on the commission, but it struck me that if it were possible to pay a higher benefit for the first month, let us say, after a person becomes unemployed, the shock of the drop from his [Mr. Merritt. 1

full earning rate to the unemployment insurance rate might be lessened. In my opinion, in that first month will fall the extra expenses, the back bills that have not been paid, and during that interval time would be given the unemployed person to turn around so that if he is going to remain unemployed more than a month he at least would have a better opportunity to adjust himself to the new conditions.

From a Gallup poll which was taken last November it w'ould appear that there is a general feeling among the lower-paid wmrkers across Canada that the maximum rate of benefit for a person with dependents is too little. It must be obvious that with costs rising as they are to-day, $14.40 is not enough to keep a family in a bare state of maintenance. But any scheme for increasing rates would require an increase in the rates payable. The other way to bring increased benefits on an actuarial basis is for those who have the custody of the fund to reserve it strictly for those for whom no suitable employment exists. If we can be sure that benefits are paid out only where no proper work is available for the applicant, then over the course of some years-and perhaps not so many-I am sure that the factor of safety, which the actuaries must have applied, could be modified and some increases granted without raising the rates payable. [DOT]

I agree with the minister when he said yesterday that suitable employment is a difficult thing to define and must be considered in each case. Even then I am sure it is not easy. But all the efforts of those concerned with this act must now be directed toward an increase of the benefits which are payable, so that they may reach a level which will, if possible, enable an unemployed person to pull in his horns and save himself from going deeply in debt. At the present time I am sure that a person who was unemployed for a long period would be bound to go into debt or to draw heavily on the amount that he may have saved.

As to prevention of depletion of the fund, I should like to call the attention of the house to some of the figures given, in the debate in the other place, with respect to payments into the fund since its inception and the benefits which have been paid up to the present time. The figures show that up to 1945 substantial payments were made into the fund and the payment of benefits was quite negligible. As a result the fund built itself up to the good position in which it finds itself now, with more than $300 million to its credit. But in 1945 there was a substantial increase in the benefits paid

Unemployment Insurance

out consequent upon the unemployment after the end of hostilities. If I recollect rightly the benefits paid out in 1945 amounted to about $14 million, or 17-5 per cent of the revenue of the fund for that year. That figure may be, and probably is, a bearable figure now, but for the first three months of 1946 one finds that over ninety per cent of the amounts paid into the fund were paid out in benefits to unemployed persons. We have a considerable amount of unemployment in the country at the present time. On May 3 I believe 210,000 people were unemployed, and that, of course, is too many. I do not think it can be denied that on occasions in the future this fund will be called upon to bear much heavier burdens than the amount paid out so far. Therefore the payment out of more than ninety per cent of the amounts paid in in the first three months is not a fact that one can quickly brush aside. I hope, and I know, that the minister is taking that into consideration and will project forward what will happen to the fund if such rates of payment are kept up.

When the minister made his statement yesterday he said the unemployment services which are set up under the bill will come under his immediate direction, whereas the operation of the fund itself remains entirely under the unemployment insurance commission. I believe it is proper that that should be so. I agree that he must have direct power in respect of the unemployment services. If the fund is to be kept on an actuarial and sound basis there is much point in its being handled by the unemployment commission, and not being subject to the dayJby-day direction of the department administering the unemployment services.

I mention the question of suitable employment because it is there that a raid can be made upon the fund. If the time should ever come when persons would be kept on unemployment insurance when suitable jobs were available, then the fund could be quickly depleted. That would do great harm to those who are paying into it, and to those with bona fide cases of actual need, who are the persons for whom the fund was set up.

Although the minister has said that there are insurance officers in every district to handle these applicants, I did not gather whether they were officers of the unemployment insurance commission or of the Department of Labour, responsible to the minister; whether they took from the minister or from the commission itself the directions given to them for their guidance in deciding what is suitable employment. I hope he will make that point clear when he speaks in this debate.

What I have been saying is given strong support by a statement in the Ottawa Journal of recent date in which the deputy minister of labour is reported to have said with respect to the need for finding agricultural workers:

"We can place ten thousand workers on the land" said Mr. Mac Nam a ra, "and the bulk of those men with farm experience are now beginning to accept the inevitable in going to work."

Later, though this is not a direct quotation, the report states:

It had been the policy of the unemployment insurance commission "for some weeks" to cut off their benefits in cases where men refused work for which they were qualified.

That report gives rise to the question whether the unemployment insurance fund has been too liberally administered, and used in a way which ultimately would work against the people who now or in the future might have very real need for its assistance; and whether such a liberal policy could work against the possibility of an increase in the benefits payable without an increase in the rates as well. Certainly while I should be the last to wish to see the regulations or the act enforced in such a way as to harm anyone who finds himself out of work, I think the need to take care of the unemployed who have dependents must outweigh any notions of excessive liberality; and the quotations I have just read would lead one to believe that people who heretofore could have gone to work but did not wish to "accept the inevitable" have not been required so to do. Indeed in the second quotation the actual words "refused work" appear. So I hope the minister will make a further statement on this matter of suitable employment, and indicate whether or not it is within his power, or the power of the unemployment insurance commission, or both, to determine what is suitable employment at any particular time, whether these insurance officers come under the commission or under the minister or under both, and what authority issues to them their instructions.

Again, it seems to me very important to have an understanding of what is meant -by "a reasonable time" in section 31, dealing with the entitlement to continuing benefit after being on the roll for some time, there being no suitable work of the kind to which a person has been accustomed. After a reasonable time one must accept employment of some other type for which one is fitted; and I think the construction of that word might be explained with some benefit. I want to emphasize that my remarks on this point are made in the desire to see the benefits increased, particularly to those with dependents, and are

Unemployment Insurance

in no way offered in criticism of persons who may be on the unemployment insurance rolls at the present time.

There are only two other points I should like to mention. I thoroughly approve the establishment of the employment service under the arrangements the minister has described. I see this service has certain powers and duties in regard to the investigation of working conditions and opportunities for work, which will enable it better to carry out its functions. I want to offer one suggestion to the minister. The employment service, which of necessity will be closely concerned with examining employment opportunities in all parts of Canada, to my mind will have a great opportunity to assemble data and perhaps come to conclusions in regard to the improvement of working conditions in various parts of Canada. I refer particularly to the possibility of providing better housing accommodation and greater opportunities for the construction of houses in mining and logging camps which are far removed from towns and cities. It seems to me that good housing in our mining and logging camps, and indeed on farms and throughout the country, is a wonderful way of adding to good labour-management relations and to promote industrial peace instead of industrial unrest. The improvement of conditions in that respect, of course, would be a way of keeping up production, maintaining employment and relieving the burden on the employment service itself.

Suitable housing in these places, which when you come right down to it are the places where we produce our natural wealth, would kill two birds with one stone. It would enable men to be united with their families on the job and take them off the unemployment insurance rolls, because men are much more willing to travel to another place of employment if they are able to take their families with them; and moving a family out of a congested city area would free additional housing accommodation at that point, where housing accommodation is most critically short. So without going into it further I feel that this employment service could well work closely with the department responsible for housing in devising some amendment to the National Housing Act which would make funds more readily available for the construction of housing accommodation in these outlying places, thus contributing to the work of both the Department of Labour and the Department of Reconstruction.

The other matter about which I should like the minister to tell us something when he speaks is unemployment as related to the

Unemployment Insurance Act. According to the last word of the department, as at May 30 there were in Canada 210,000 people unemployed, while at the same time there were 115,000 opportunities for employment. In order that we may see the relationship of these figures to the unemployment insurance fund I hope the minister will be able to tell us how many are receiving unemployment insurance at the present time, and how many of them have been on the unemployment insurance rolls for more than three months.

That is about all I wish to say on the motion for second reading.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
Subtopic:   CLARIFICATION AND EXTENSION OF PROVISIONS AND BENEFITS
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July 4, 1946