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


William Allen Walsh

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. W. A. WALSH (Mount Royal):

Mr. Chairman, speaking to the resolution before us, I notice that it is worded:
Resolved, that it is expedient to bring in a measure to provide assistance-
I would suggest that it has been expedient to do that for over two years, and that the thought of the government in considering the present time as expedient is a very long overdue thought.
As we all remember, this government came into office after having promised the people of Canada they would do what they suggested the previous government had not done, after having promised the people that they were the only party which could bring about
an alleviation of the distress caused by unemployment because of their very close association with the then provincial governments in this country. Now, after two and a half years of office they at last suggest that it is expedient that something should be done.
I am sorry to have missed the introductory remarks of the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers); but as I listened to him during the early part of this evening I was almost reminded of the days I spent in the lecture theatre, and was almost ready to commend him for his academic style of delivery and for the academic words of wisdom to which he gave utterance. Unfortunately, however, the problem with which we are dealing cannot be solved by academic utterances or by academically well-turned phrases.
I also notice that the resolution reads that it is expedient to bring in a measure to provide assistance "towards the alleviation of unemployment and agricultural distress." I would suggest that unemployment and agricultural distress should not be grouped together as they have been in this resolution. I assume that agricultural distress refers to the conditions which prevail and have prevailed for some time in western Canada; but I do not think it is fair to those farmers who are suffering through no fault of their own, not because of any economic ills that have come to the world and to Canada in common with other nations, but merely through an act of providence, through the workings of nature, to place those farmers who are suffering just as intensely as the unemployed in our cities and towns in the same category with them. I think the two groups should be kept separate and distinct, and those who are suffering agricultural distress should be treated separately and distinctly from those who are unemployed from other causes than have brought about the unfortunate conditions which prevail in that western country. Judging by the utterances of last year, I thought that this year we would see those suffering from agricultural distress treated separately from the rank and file of the unemployed; that we would have separate figures in respect to them and separate legislation to deal with them at this present session. Unfortunately the government has not seen its way clear to bring in legislation of that nature, and so we must deal with the situation as we find it.
Listening to the minister this evening, I did not hear anything which would lead us to believe that any concrete measures will be
Relief and Agricultural Distress

brought before the house to deal with unemployment in any definite way. I feel reasonably certain that if the unemployed had listened to the Minister of Labour this afternoon and this evening, and then had supplemented what they had heard by a careful reading of the report of the national employment commission, they would have gone away from this house very little comforted and with very little hope for the immediate future. As they pick up their paper to-morrow morning or to-morrow afternoon and read the utterances of the minister representing this government, I cannot see that they are going to catch that ray of hope they would naturally expect as a result of two and a half years' work on the part of such an important commission, whose labours they hoped would result in something more fruitful, which would be implemented by the government at present holding office.
The minister in the course of his remarks pictured in glowing terms the recovery that had been made by Canada, in more glowing terms, I think, than actual conditions at the present time warrant. I am not a pessimist, but in the present situation I for one cannot assume such an optimistic tone and outlook as the minister assumed in his remarks to-day. I feed absolutely certain that if we compare the recovery figures for Canada, to which the minister referred from time to time, with the recovery figures of other nations of the world, and with the figures for the world at large, we should find that Canada had made no more rapid strides on the road to recovery than many other countries of the world or, indeed, than the average country of the world.
As someone speaking in this debate has pointed out, the minister has made many suggestions, but not many suggestions of what could actually be done. He has pointed to what it would be impossible to do under present circumstances and conditions, but he has not been at all definite in showing the way to those who are looking for a lead in this connection.
When, some two years ago, I first spoke on a similar measure, I suggested that the minister was ill-advised in burdening this country with the expense of a commission to solve unemployment. I suggested that what he hoped to do through the efforts of such a commission could very well be done with a little reorganization within his own department, at far less expense and with much greater expedition than has been the case as a result of the appointment of this commission. I do not wish to say anything derogatory of the commission. They have done a nice piece

of work; they have gathered together facts and statistics and made accessible material which was perhaps not previously available, but this could have been done by officials of the department with probably as much competence and a great deal more quickly than it has been done by the national employment commission. The result of the appointment of that .body is that for over two years a practical solution of the problem of unemployment in this country has been delayed. When we get the report we find, blocking the way to dealing properly with the problem, a reference to another commission. One commission prevents anything from being done as a result of the report of another commission for which we have been waiting some two years. Evidently the present government have little or no intention of effectively dealing with the unemployment situation. What the government is doing is passing the question from one commission to another, hoping that, during the lapse of time between the reception of these reports and the giving effect to any recommendations they may have to make, world conditions will improve and reflect themselves in Canada; then this government will make an effort to persuade the people that they are responsible for an improvement which came about naturally in process of time.
These commissions entail a tremendous expense to the Canadian people. I hope during the course of this parliament to place on record in Hansard a complete list of the commissions that have been appointed, with their expensive and high strutting counsel, so that the people will know what a commission form of government really costs in the way of taxation, and what a so-called Liberal government is doing in the way of governing this country, not as a government but through the instrumentality of commissions, one appointed after another.
There is another point to which I wish to take exception. This lengthy report, containing as has been pointed out, somewhat laboured phrases and sentences, was tabled in the house on Friday; yet members are asked to give consideration to it on Monday. I ask the Minister of Labour, who, like myself, has been a teacher

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