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


James Shaver Woodsworth

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


Yes; but one crop does not alter the situation any more than one swallow makes a summer. Let me give two other quotations, and I do so because I do not believe the members from the eastern and central provinces realize yet the situation in the drought area or the condition of the people in the industrial centres of the west. I quote from page 16:
Some 84 per cent of all direct relief expenditures in the province have had to be made in Winnipeg and suburbs; including relief works expenditures the proportion is 74 per cent. Although Winnipeg's net debt was relatively low, the major portion of the provincial tax revenues were derived from the city, and there was little margin for increasing municipal revenues. Consequently, greater Winnipeg was early forced to rely on the province for assistance in meeting its share of relief costs, and by the end of the fiscal year 1936 had borrowed $3,500,000, or 95 per cent of total municipal borrowings from the province, excluding the drought area.
One other quotation:
Of the $24,000,000 spent or loaned for relief purposes by the province, the dominion will have advanced $19,000,000 and will have paid an additional $20,000,000 for its own share, making with the municipalities' $9,000,000 a grand total of $53,000,000 relief expenditures by all agencies.
Relief and Agricultural Distress

When we have figures like these it is high time that we gave a little more attention not only to relief on a much greater scale than has hitherto been contemplated but also to the question behind relief, of how we can provide against unemployment.
I wish to deal with one or two points with reference to the constitutional question, and I turn to Manitoba's case as presented recently to the Rowell commission. I propose to quote from page 41. May I say that we cannot wait until the Rowell commission reports before we deal with these problems. I am taking the case as submitted to that commission because it contains figures which I assume will be accepted by the government. Under the heading "Amendment of the Constitution," there appears the following:
It may be said from the above that the original conception and the present position of the constitution of Canada are poles apart. It has been interpreted in a way which it can safely be said would have caused consternation in the minds of those who framed it.
It will be apparent from the decided cases in such matters of the grayest national importance as unemployment insurance, weekly rest, minimum wages, hours of labour and other great social services, that we in Canada are practically at an impasse. The dominion, according to the decisions referred to above, has not the power to pass legislation in relation to such matters. The provinces alone have the power to pass such legislation, but they cannot in practice deal with such matters satisfactorily, as from their nature only national action in regard thereto can really be effective. In addition, to repeat what has already been emphasized, the provinces have not at present the powers of taxation necessary to meet the outlay for said matters and matters of similar import.
Let me quote one short paragraph further down:
Hence one is led to the irresistible conclusion that our constitution as it stands at present has ceased to be an effective instrument of government. It should be amended so that the defects which have been pointed out can be removed, and so that it will meet the needs of to-day and will cease to be an obstacle to social progress and national development.
The minister has referred to constitutional difficulties, and I simply give this extract from the case as presented to the commission to show its practical bearings. But what does the minister propose to do? In theory he is very much opposed to grants in aid, and possibly that is correct from the purely theoretical standpoint. But what are we going to do in circumstances such as these? Are we going to wait another two years until the Rowell commission reports, when the city is on the verge of bankruptcy, and the people, if the city cannot give relief, will be faced with actual starvation? Is there nothing that

can be done about the matter? I do not think we can simply allow the government to give us general and vague phrases and go on for one year more.
Last year the situation was bad enough. Everything reported by the Bank of Canada existed then, but the government had to hurry over to the coronation and participate in the ceremonies there; that was infinitely more important than caring for the people here! Therefore nothing was done last year; and now when this year we ask for some action, we are told that we must wait until some other commission reports or until all the provinces are agreed to constitutional changes. If some of the provinces are satisfied with the existing situation, very well; but some of us have to .take action and to do so in the not too distant future. I have always done my best to frown upon anything like the advocacy of secession, but I say that people are being driven to despair by the situation that prevails. Secession would be a political move to try to solve an economic difficulty, and I do not think it would be successful in itself. But I urge that something must be done if we are to have that unity which the minister has pleaded for to-night. That unity must mean that the sections of the community which are in difficulties can have their difficulties met promptly and adequately.
I should like to give just one quotation from another section of this brief, dealing with federal monetary policy. I am afraid, however, that in making my notes this particular passage was not brought down to my desk. I am sorry; I should like to have quoted it. It appears on page 1 of part 3. Perhaps some other time I shall take occasion to read this quotation. Undoubtedly that monetary policy has borne very heavily upon the people of the west. They had to sell abroad, and the exchange relationship that existed worked a very great hardship on the western people. Further than that, one should remember the tariff policy, into which I shall not enter at this time; and still further than that, the difficult position of the school districts, even in Manitoba. To-day we heard a plea for the school districts of Saskatchewan and Alberta, but there are large numbers of rural schools in Manitoba in a serious predicament. Are we going to allow the education of our children in this country to be subordinated to other and lesser considerations?
What is the government prepared to do? Under the restrictions imposed by their charters and by the British North America Act the municipalities and some of the provinces are

Relief and Agricultural Distress
unable to provide for the unemployed. In the circumstances what are we going to do? That is the question I should like to ask the government. Let me repeat that my own city at the moment is almost on the verge of bankruptcy. It is in a very difficult position. It does not know which way to turn. The province is in a difficult situation. It does not know which way to turn. What is to be done to meet the situation?

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