December 18, 1957

CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

On

what date was that set?

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PC

Howard Charles Green (Minister of Defence Production; Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

I cannot tell the hon. member that at the moment. It is quite recent. May I point out that under the terms of the National Housing Act the maximum rate is set by the governor in council, so that 6 per cent is the maximum rate. The rate could be anything lower than that if a loan could be obtained at a lower rate.

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CCF

Thomas Speakman Barnett

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

Mr. Barnett:

Mr. Chairman, I must confess that I still have not been able to get through my thick head just what the picture is on this matter of reimbursing the lending agencies. Yesterday, as recorded at page 2501 of Hansard, the minister quoted from paragraph 9 of the agency agreement for the administration of N.H.A. loans and he said paragraph 9 states:

For the making and advancing of loans the corporation will pay to the approved lender a fee of

(i) $100 for each loan made in respect of a house other than to a builder;

And corresponding amounts for certain other categories. I understood that was a flat figure for a loan paid to a lender acting as an agent of the corporation. Now the minister has been saying in reply to questions by the hon. member for Burnaby-Coquitlam that the lender acting as agent receives two-thirds of 1 per cent and one-half of 1 per cent by way of reimbursement. If I understood the minister correctly, one-half of 1 per cent refers to a recurring amount which the lender would get each year as a collection fee, but I am still at a loss to understand what the connection is between this $100 flat rate and the two-thirds of 1 per cent to which he referred.

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PC

Howard Charles Green (Minister of Defence Production; Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

The two-thirds of 1 per cent is the converted charge, taking all the loans together, and it works out at that average of two-thirds of 1 per cent.

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CCF

Thomas Speakman Barnett

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

Mr. Barneli:

And that is the same as the $100 to which the minister referred? The two-thirds of 1 per cent is the converted figure representing the amount paid to the agency in respect of this clause of the agreement. Is that correct?

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PC

Howard Charles Green (Minister of Defence Production; Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

Yes.

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Clause agreed to. Clause 2 agreed to. Title agreed to. Bill reported.


PC

Charles Edward Rea

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rea):

When shall the bill be read the third time. Now?

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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

By

leave.

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PC

Howard Charles Green (Minister of Defence Production; Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green moved

the third reading of the bill.

Motion agreed to and bill read the third time and passed.

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UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE ACT

AMENDMENTS TO REMOVE THRESHOLD PROVISION FROM AGREEMENTS, ETC.

PC

Jay Waldo Monteith (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. J. W. Monteith (Minister of National Health and Welfare) moved

that the house go into committee to consider the following resolution:

That It is expedient to introduce a measure to amend the Unemployment Assistance Act so as to remove the threshold provision from the agreements that have been concluded or that may be entered into hereafter; and to make certain changes for the better administration of the act through the deletion of a number of obsolete provisions.

Motion agreed to and the house went into committee, Mr. Rea in the chair.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO REMOVE THRESHOLD PROVISION FROM AGREEMENTS, ETC.
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PC

Jay Waldo Monteith (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Monleilh:

Mr. Chairman, the purpose of this resolution can be stated very simply. We seek authority to delete the so-called threshold from the Unemployment Assistance Act.

This threshold provision at present prevents the federal government from sharing in the cost of unemployment assistance until the number of needy persons receiving such assistance in any month rises above .45 per cent of the provincial population. The effect of abolishing this provision from the act and from the agreements with the provinces under the act will be to authorize federal assistance to the provinces and, indirectly to the municipalities, regardless of the numbers who may receive assistance in any given month.

Since the Unemployment Assistance Act has now been opened up for amendment along the lines I have mentioned it is also proposed at the same time to delete in part or entirely certain transitional provisions of the act which were necessary at the time it was passed but which are now obsolete. I refer to the reference in section 5 of the present act to the date of July 1, 1955, and also to section 8 of the present act.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO REMOVE THRESHOLD PROVISION FROM AGREEMENTS, ETC.
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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. Martin (Essex East):

Mr. Chairman, I should like by leave of the committee to make a few comments on this resolution. The hon. minister has not at this stage given us a very detailed explanation, but when the bill is before the house he will undoubtedly say more about the government's policies in this particular regard.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO REMOVE THRESHOLD PROVISION FROM AGREEMENTS, ETC.
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PC

Jay Waldo Monteith (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Monteiih:

I will give a lot more detail.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO REMOVE THRESHOLD PROVISION FROM AGREEMENTS, ETC.
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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. Martin (Essex East):

Yes, and as he says he will give a lot more detail. But at this stage I think it is desirable that some comment should be made on the measure which the hon. gentleman recommends to our consideration by way of amendment. I think at this stage it would be well to remember the situation which caused the previous administration to recommend to parliament that the present government should share in the maintenance of a group of individuals in our country who from time to time find themselves without work, often without the means to obtain work, and also the decision of the administration to assist those classes in the community who are regarded as unemployable.

The federal government in 1940 took a very important step when it asked the provinces to give the federal government the necessary power under the British North America Act to legislate for a system of unemployment insurance, and when the federal government took over the responsibility for unemployment insurance, taking over as well the administration of local employment offices. It

Unemployment Assistance Act made a very important contribution toward assuaging the problem of unemployment as it confronts this country from time to time, and no one will deny that the decision of the government at that time, taken at a very difficult period in our history, represented a very important step in providing a form of unemployment insurance which has meant a great deal to the working force of this country.

When the legislation was introduced in 1940 it did not represent the first attempt by an administration to provide unemployment insurance. It had been tried in the latter days of the government under the leadership of the late Lord Bennett. But, as was pointed out at that time, the unemployment insurance measure introduced by that administration was clearly contrary to the provisions of the British North America Act. It was urged by opposition members of that day that the measure would not stand testing by the courts and this indeed proved to be true when the Supreme Court of Canada and the judicial committee of the privy council declared it ultra vires of the parliament of Canada.

But, notwithstanding the passage of unemployment insurance and the undoubted benefits which have flowed therefrom, many of the working force of our country, and those who are now unemployable, found themselves at the mercy of municipalities and of provinces for assistance. It is a fact that during the period from the time the Unemployment Insurance Act was passed up until recent days many municipalities did not regard it as their normal function to provide assistance for individuals out of work, certainly, for individuals who could qualify at one time or another for unemployment insurance. Even with regard to those who did not and could not qualify for unemployment insurance, a number of municipalities in a number of our provinces did not provide assistance for the unemployable group. Therefore, from year to year we were confronted in this country with the spectacle of individuals either denied assistance by the municipality or, if given assistance, in many instances given inadequate assistance.

Certain provinces refused to share in this assistance with the municipalities and, as hon. members know, that was particularly true in Ontario where, for some reason or another, there was a reluctance on the part of the provincial administration to share in the cost of assisting individuals whose unemployment insurance and seasonal benefits had run out. The argument they advanced was that this was a responsibility that did not rest with particular provincial administrations. Municipal representatives went to

Unemployment Assistance Act provincial governments and asked for moneys to assist them in bolstering up their funds to provide for these two classes of out-ofwork people. The provincial governments would say: This is not our responsibility; this is a matter that rests with the federal author-ority and you must look to them for assistance. This throwing of the responsibility back and forth undoubtedly caused much confusion and a great deal of understandable criticism on the part of municipal officers and citizens in given communities. It was because of this kind of situation that the previous government decided that it should embark upon a program of public assistance so that finally we might be able to eradicate entirely from the Canadian scene this shifting of responsibility from one government to another in respect of individuals out of work with no opportunity of receiving assistance at the hands of any of the three levels of government of this country.

When the measure was announced it was widely acclaimed. It was first of all discussed with the provinces and at the conference which I had the privilege of attending there was a unanimous expression of opinion from the provinces that this was a step in the right direction. There were some difficulties in the proposal put forward by the government of the day. For instance, there was the difficulty in the case of Nova Scotia, but generally speaking the principle of the measure was one which all of the provinces agreed was a very important and constructive step to take in the field of social welfare.

When the proposal was put forward the government, of course, indicated that the only way in which it could be implemented was by agreements entered into between the federal government on the one hand and the 10 provincial governments on the other. It is regrettable that agreements were not consummated between the governments of the two larger provinces and the federal government. Six agreements were concluded and, as a result, in these six provinces the federal government shares with the provincial governments on a fifty-fifty basis the cost of a measure of public assistance that undoubtedly has produced very satisfactory results and gives very important assistance to these two groups of individuals.

The cost of the scheme at the present time -the minister will correct me if I am wrong- perhaps in so far as the federal government is concerned is somewhere in the neighbourhood of $5 million. I have made an estimate of the proposal the minister now makes, assuming the participation of the two larger and the two smaller provinces that have not come into the scheme, and it will represent

possibly an additional $8 million or $9 million; but these are figures which I have just estimated. Undoubtedly the minister, with more accurate information at his disposal, will be able to comment on it later on.

I would remind the Minister of National Health and Welfare that it is our duty at this time to point out the significance of the step that is now being taken in the light of the problem that now confronts us in Canada, a problem that we were reminded of when this measure was introduced and when I proposed this public assistance measure. We were told that what the government should be doing was to put forward schemes that would not provide assistance to men and women but schemes that would keep men and women at work. Those were observations made by the present Prime Minister when he discussed unemployment and this particular measure. Those were observations made by the former leader of the opposition, not with regard to the particular proposal for public assistance, but when he discussed unemployment from time to time.

All of us in this house recognize the difficulties that confront any government in the matter of unemployment; but that does not free any of us from the obligation of looking at this problem squarely in the light of the facts that confront us at a given moment. The fact is that since the end of the war we have had in this country a level of employment never exceeded before. We have never had as high a working force and our working force has never been as continuously employed as during the past decade. But we must recognize that the situation today is somewhat alarming because of the volume of unemployment that is to be found throughout the nation. We were told yesterday that some

82,000 individuals are now out of work who were not out of work a month ago. I think that is the correct figure.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO REMOVE THRESHOLD PROVISION FROM AGREEMENTS, ETC.
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PC

Michael Starr (Minister of Labour)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Starr:

Eighty-four thousand.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO REMOVE THRESHOLD PROVISION FROM AGREEMENTS, ETC.
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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. Martin (Essex East):

I thank the Minister of Labour. I know that the Minister of Labour is concerned about this problem as indeed we all are. There will be differences as to the number of men actually out of work. The differences between the figures supplied by two departments of government indicate that it is not easy to determine the exact number of individuals out of work. But the fact is that there are certainly double the number out of work today as were out of work at this time a year ago and the indications from government statisticians are that the increase is likely to continue for some time to come.

We will all hope that unemployment will be corrected, that more and more individuals

will be able to find work, will be able to go off the unemployment insurance rolls and will not require the necessity of seasonal benefits and the advantages of public assistance. But we have to face the fact that in the present period and for some months to come at any rate we are likely to be confronted with a serious unemployment problem. None of us can shirk our responsibility no matter what our position in the house may be, no matter where we may sit, and it will not be valid to suggest that for any hon. member to emphasize the problem is to create a lack of confidence in Canada or in the Canadian economy. When this question was raised on another occasion the then leader of the opposition, Mr. George Drew, dealt with this aspect of the problem. As found at page 2498 of Hansard for March 29, 1955, he said:

I regret that anyone would suggest that a discussion on unemployment is an attempt to undermine confidence. If there is any attempt to undermine confidence on that basis, then of course it must come from the agency of the government which gives the figures.

These agencies, of course, are the Department of Labour and the dominion bureau of statistics.

The figures that have been used are given by the dominion bureau of statistics. Surely there is no suggestion that the dominion bureau of statistics is deliberately seeking to undermine public confidence. After all, it is a statistical agency which we believe has been giving us reliable information within the pattern it has established with regard to these and other matters. The interpretation to be placed upon those figures is for the members of this house and the public of Canada.

I think that statement, admittedly made in another context, is a justification for our raising this question when the opportunity is presented as I am seeking to do tonight. It would be unfair, I believe, to charge the present administration with full responsibility for the situation and I am not doing that. But I would remind hon. members opposite that when much less unemployment existed in this country some hon. members sitting on the treasury benches, in spite of the high level of economic prosperity that Canada enjoyed, did charge the government, not with the responsibility of providing public assistance or unemployment insurance but with the obligation to provide work for people out of work. It is open to us in the light of these criticisms, all of which are recorded in Hansard, to remind hon. gentlemen opposite of what they said on these occasions and to remind them that they have a responsibility with regard to this problem in the light of the arguments they made throughout the years with respect to this particular matter.

We never took the position that it was possible for us to correct the situation fully, but the argumentation made by some hon.

Unemployment Assistance Act members opposite when they were sitting in our places clearly implied, give us the opportunity and these unfortunate situations will not arise. But they have arisen. They are now here and all over the country many thousands of men and women are out of work in every one of our cities. The Minister of Labour may say that in his city unemployment possibly is not as great as it is in my community. He is indeed very fortunate that that is the situation and I recognize that it is the case. But I am sure the Minister of Labour will be the first to agree that the city of Oshawa is perhaps the only city in Canada where there is not a very serious unemployment situation.

The daily bulletin issued by the dominion bureau of statistics for Monday, December 16, gives an indication not of the latest figures but of the situation existing in the country. It points out that the number of initial and renewal claims received at local offices of the unemployment insurance commission rose 34 per cent in October to 167,363 from the September total of 124,949, and it was 90 per cent in excess of last year's October figure of 87,929. The same daily bulletin reminds us that a total of 268,005 claimants, comprising

198.000 males and 69,951 females, had their unemployment registered in the live files on October 31, an increase of 41,475 or 18 per cent over the September 30 count of 226,530. On October 31 last year the total was 139,377 and claimants as at October 31 this year accounted for 6.8 per cent of the estimated insured population on October 1 versus 3.7 per cent a year earlier.

So one can refer to the latest bulletin and to bulletins issued subsequent to October 14 and find there a steady increase in the number of applicants for unemployment insurance reflecting, of course, the growth in unemployment itself. I am sure the minister has more recent figures available than we have at this moment. I remember that about the middle of November he gave us some figures for October and the next day, at the suggestion of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, he gave figures for November 7 of this year. They reflected, of course, what I have said has been a gradual increase of unemployment during last autumn.

What the final figure today is I do not know except that we do know from what the Minister of Labour has just said that there were 84,000 more men and women out of work last month than there were in the preceding month. The minister nods his head. That represents a very significant increase,

34.000 more in November than in October. What it will be in December, what it will be in January, February, March and April, I do not know. There are indications, and my

Unemployment Assistance Act authority for saying this is the statements made by government officers themselves, that we will find the figures will be considerably higher than what they are now.

If the figure reaches the suggested 700,000, and I have seen even 800,000 mentioned, undoubtedly that will represent a very dangerous point. It will represent the highest point reached at any time since 1934. As a matter of fact, this figure, for this time of year, is greater than in any other year before since 1933. I believe these facts speak for themselves. If the former administration had a responsibility in connection with the matter, so has the present administration. We have a right to ask what steps are going to be taken by the government to correct this situation.

I must, in fairness to the Minister of Labour note that at least on two occasions he has indicated to the house the steps which his department is taking to try to improve this picture. He has told us of the steps he is taking with industry and in government departments, with regard to public organizations and the like, to try to mitigate this problem somewhat. But I think we must ask him, are these steps going to correct this situation? Can the government take any steps that will correct this situation? What is the government's view with regard to that particular question on which they had strong views when in opposition? We were told unemployment insurance, seasonal benefits and public assistance was no substitute for the provision of work for men and women; that was the position taken by hon. gentlemen opposite on other occasions. Is that still their position? Is it still their position that these various social measures which I have enumerated are not enough and that what is wanted are policies that will lead to providing work for Canada's working force?

I think the position is clear. The government has the responsibility to be consistent with the criticism that it levelled at the previous administration, an administration that at no time ever took the position that unemployment insurance, seasonal benefits or public assistance were, of themselves, a substitute for work. At no time did we indicate that we were embarking on policies that would correct this situation, if and when it arose, and particularly during this difficult season period. The government has, in its departmental files I am sure, many projects which if implemented now would, in many cases, provide work for individuals.

The other day I referred in this house to the tax policy of the government with regard to the automobile industry. I am sure that the policy pursued by the Minister

of Finance in that case was not calculated to relieve the unemployment problem that exists in the automobile and related industries. Did the government consider, when it decided on that particular course, that that was the way to provide a corrective measure for a very important segment in the unemployment picture in Canada? Did the government believe that a reduction of 2J per cent was calculated to stimulate sales?

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO REMOVE THRESHOLD PROVISION FROM AGREEMENTS, ETC.
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PC

William Joseph Browne (Minister Without Portfolio)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Browne (Si. John's West):

Are we going to discuss that again? I suggest that the speaker is out of order, Mr. Chairman.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENTS TO REMOVE THRESHOLD PROVISION FROM AGREEMENTS, ETC.
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December 18, 1957