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


James Earl Lawson

Conservative (1867-1942)


That is .the third time I have heard that, but I have not yet found out what it is.
To my mind the unemployment problem far transcends any question of party politics or political controversy. Let us say that the camps to which the minister referred were a temporary expedient to meet the needs of a particular time, and let us say that the employment commission, which has functioned, has collected some valuable data and has presented in its report some better ideas respecting the classification of unemployed and unemployables than we had before. But the question still remains: If every recommendation made by the employment commission was implemented by the present government, which apparently it is not going to do, we would still have an unemployment problem. I do not think the minister would suggest seriously to this committee that the implementation of those recommendations would prove a solution of our problem. As I said a moment ago, let us take it for granted that they gave us some valuable data, but I am sometimes doubtful of that.
This afternoon the minister gave some figures in connection with the unemployed. It was pointed out by him, I believe as a result of a question asked, that the figures referred only to the unemployed on relief. Recently I had brought to my attention an instance of how inaccurate such figures may be. The municipality of the township of York is in the constituency which I have the honour to represent. According to the latest figures there are supposed to be 750 young people between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one who are unemployed in that particular municipality which has a population of something less than 700,000. There happens to be a very active youth movement in that municipality, as the minister knows, composed of several youth organizations. A little while ago they undertook to make a canvass of
Relief and Agricultural Distress

every house ia the municipality. Up to last week their voluntary job was two-thirds finished; but their census showed that instead of 750, there were 2,150 young people between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one years in that one municipality who were seeking employment.
I regret that the minister has not intimated that the bill to be founded upon this resolution will contain definite provisions for an effort, other than those which have been made, to meet the problem of unemployment. The minister dealt at some length with the home improvement plan and what it had accomplished. I would be the last to suggest that it has not provided some impetus and stimulus to and caused, considerable expenditure in the building industry; but may I say to the minister I am convinced that so far as the promoting of the building industiy in this country is concerned, it has but scratched the surface. The great impediment to progress in the building industry, as I see it, is the tremendous burden of municipal taxation which is now placed upon property. Until you 'relieve that burden you will not make any real progress in our building industry.
Some one will say that the municipality is a creature of the province; that this is a matter within the jurisdiction of the province, but it seems to me that there is a material and substantial contribution which the government of the Dominion of Canada could make to the solution of this problem. They should do that which almost everyone admits now should be done, namely, take off the municipalities and the provinces the burden of maintenance of relief of the unemployed.
I suggest that this is a concrete suggestion which will have two results. First, it would ease the burden of municipal taxation now upon the home owners and farmers in this country by eliminating that proportion of taxes which is now assessed against them by reason of the direct relief contribution being made by the municipalities. It will provide relief to those provinces which are unable to pay their way as they go and to which we are already advancing money to meet their share of the cost of unemployment relief. It will be noticed that I am distinguishing the unemployed from the unemployables. I say that by doing this you will make a great contribution, both to the stimulation of building and to relieving the burden of taxation upon those provinces and municipalities which are now in difficulties.

At one point in his speech the Minister of Labour announced that for two years the government had had a policy leading to the development of natural resources so as to secure further income for the future and thus provide more employment, rather than a program of artificial public works. By artificial public works I mean public works carried on for the purpose of providing employment. I was hopeful that before he had finished his remarks he would have told us something of wdiat the government proposed to do in that regard. However, his remarks amounted to nothing more than the old, old, oft repeated policy of my friends in the Liberal party- trade, trade and the extension of trade.

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