April 4, 1938 (18th Parliament, 3rd Session)


James Shaver Woodsworth

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


It cost $174,000, and we did not get it for two and a half years. That is an absurd way of doing public business. When, as in this case, a commission reports and we are told that we cannot implement its report until yet another commission reports, it is a still more absurd way of doing business. In the meantime the people suffer. The hungry sheep look up and are not fed. That is the trouble. I came across in my old files only a few days ago a plea from certain miners of Cape Breton, nearly two thousand of them, who at that time were out of work; a miner wrote in to me:
The stomachs of the men, women and children demand prompt action, and I thought the government might help.
Deluded man! He "thought the government might help." Oh, no. We must appoint a royal commission, and a second royal commission, and then seek some great changes in the constitution. "I thought the government might help." I would say, "deluded people," generally, and I am not putting it in an exaggerated form when I suggest that if we do not improve our ways democracy itself will show itself bankrupt. I am not one who wants a dictatorship, of either communism or fascism, but I say that they haw come in different countries because democracy has

Relief and Agricultural Distress
not been tried or has failed, and unless we can deal in a much more practical way than we are doing with the pressing problems that face us in Canada, democracy is bound to fail in this country as it has failed in some others.
I wish to point out some of the actual situations that prevail. I shall cite first the conditions in my own city of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba. It is not very often that in this house I have set forth specifically matters affecting my own city or my own province; I have tried to deal more largely with general questions. But I make no apology for taking up this question, because to-day our city is almost bankrupt. They are wondering whether or not they can draw on their sinking funds in order to give relief to the people and keep the schools open. The banks tell them that they are not to draw on their sinking funds, and I suppose, from the standpoint of sound finance, that is quite proper. They are trying to cut down on their school expenditures, and the school board says they must not do that because surely the children should not be made to carry the load. They are trying to cut down on their ordinary services all along the line; they are right up against it; that is shown clearly in the newspapers of the last few days. Now, as I have listened for three hours to the Minister of Labour as he has been expounding this report which it has taken nearly two years to prepare, I have been wondering what help there is for my city of Winnipeg and for the large numbers of people who are there unemployed. Let me read a passage or two from the Bank of Canada report. I think it is worth while doing this. I quote:
But when the province suffered from six consecutive years in which the net value of its production was little more than half of that of the preceding period, discouragement and strain throughout the province were inevitable.
And again:
The initial proposal was for a one per cent income tax and a sales tax, but the sales tax proposal was dropped and the income tax raised to two per cent, making it the heaviest income tax in North America in relation to small incomes.
On the side of expenditure, further cuts were made in highway maintenance, education, and other items, reducing total ordinary expenditures for the year 1933-34, in spite of another increase in debt charges.. Capital expenditures ceased entirely.
Again, at page 22:
We believe that during most of the period under review, and specifically during the last five years, the government of the province of Manitoba has made strong and commendable
efforts to keep its budget balanced, and avoid unnecessary increases in debt, by imposing taxation on a scale at least as high as that of any other province in Canada, and by restricting expenditures as far as it was possible to go without curtailing services to an extent which would not have been in the public interest.
What more can we do in that province? Again:
Notwithstanding this advantage and the efforts of its government, which, as we have indicated, have been very considerable, the province is either not in a position to carry on, or is able to do so with assurance for no more than a short period, unless some unexpected favourable factor should appear.
I ask the minister, What does he propose to do in that contingency? Here is the Bank of Canada making its report in which it says that the province is not in a position to carry on, or is able to do so with assurance for no more than a short period unless some unexpected favourable factor should appear.

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