June 6, 1940 (19th Parliament, 1st Session)


Douglas Gooderham Ross

National Government

Mr. D. G. ROSS (St. Paul's):

Last year I spoke in this house with reference to the transient unemployed in Toronto, more particularly in connection with what is known as John Frank's house, and I referred to what had been done there. There were about one hundred homeless transients who were looked after by John Frank's house and by public spirited citizens in Toronto. After they had been rehabilitated they made certain proposals to the government with respect to what might be done to continue the work of rehabilitation, but they were turned down by this government on the ground that no exception could be made. In consequence, in Toronto this year, we have again been faced with the problem of these transient young men, who might almost be called men without a country; nobody owns them, and they were forced to live in Toronto under conditions under which no one would want to have an animal live. They are certainly a fine body of young men, but they were treated terribly. This must not happen again. Some method must be devised to take care of these transients.
The same thing is true of homeless unemployed men. They do not seem to get to first base. When war was declared a good many of these transient young men came to Toronto in the hope of getting into the army. A great many of them did not even have money to get back. They had lost their jobs and for various reasons they could not get
into the army. Something must be done about them; some method must be found of taking care of them. Even if the provinces will not come to their aid the government of the dominion must. I presume the same bill that we have had in the past will emerge from this resolution. There will be practically no changes. The government, under this legislation, is trying to take care of the relief situation and of agricultural distress by the back-door method; or rather, one might say, the government is trying to work from the bottom up instead of from the top down. There is no coordination in the situation.
The report of the national employment commission was brought down in 1938, but the most important of that commission's recommendations has not been touched. It will be found at page 43 of the report. The commission declare that they have finished their work, which has been in an advisory capacity, and they report that the only possible way of taking care of the unemployment situation in Canada is, in their opinion, to establish an administrative body to work in conjunction with certain local organizations and with those citizens in the various parts of the country who are community minded. That is the most important part of the report, but nothing has been done to carry it out.
How in the world can we expect to handle the unemployment situation unless we have some dominion body who will look after it? Unemployment is not merely a problem of the individual living in some particular province. He is an unemployed Canadian and he may be employed somewhere else. There is one thing further that I would touch upon here. A few figures were given with regard to the seasonal increase in the number of people on relief. I have taken a few of these figures from the report made under the act of 1939. In September, 1937, there were
100,000 heads of families on relief and in March, 1938, there were 144,696, an increase of 44,696. In September, 1939, there were 107,696 heads of families on relief and in March, 1940, there were 138,455, an increase of 30,759. Comparing 1939-40 with 1937-38, that means a diminution of only 14,000 in the seasonal increase; yet we have had a war on since September of last year, and we still have that seasonal increase of 30,000. Then as far as individuals are concerned, we have a seasonal increase of 13,000 on relief to the end of March this year. These are urban recipients. We have a total seasonal increase of 157,000 individuals on relief in the urban centres. And we have a war on!
Day after day there come to my office in Toronto literally hundreds of people who
Unemployment Relief-Mr. Ross (St. Paul's)
want to know where they can get work. They ask: "Why can't I get something to do? Is there any place in Canada where I can get a job? I will go anywhere, and do any kind of work." But still they cannot get to first base. They go to the employment office, and they are put on the list. Skilled workers who have had jobs are in demand, but skilled workers who have been out of work for three to six years just cannot get anything. We are going to need more workers, and the task that confronts the government at the present time is to get these men trained so that they can do the work. This cannot be done unless there is coordination, and the administration body to which I have referred should be set up to do this job. It is just the same old story all over again: year after year we come here, and great promises are made; the unemployment commission was practically going to cure relief, and the government were going to cure it as well, but it is just as it always was. There is no method; there is no driving force behind the handling of this relief situation; money is just spent in any old way, so far as I can gather. It is just a makeshift. This is surprising to me when it is considered that the Prime Minister has told us, as one hon. member mentioned before, that we have in the cabinet the best brains in Canada; yet that "best brains" outfit have not brains enough to overcome a few difficulties.
One difficulty, the government say, is that this commission recommended by the Purvis report cannot function. Have we not an interdepartmental committee as well, formed under the Purvis report? It cannot function, we are told, because the provinces will not let it function. And the best brains of Canada at the present time are trying to handle this situation from the bottom to the top. This unemployment situation has to be cleaned up. We have got to get away from the relief business; it is destroying the morale of the people. We are letting the people down. These men and women who are so anxious to do something for Canada have no leadership whatever. The government cannot tell me, with all the things we require in this country, that if this administrative body were set up there would not be coordination between it and the heads of industry and labour. I have great faith in the enterprise of our Canadian industrialists, and in our workmen as well, but they cannot get to first base unless they have leadership. That is what is required. Something must be done, and I say to the minister that as the first step he should set up that body.
We are in a war now. There may be certain constitutional difficulties, as they call

them, concerning dominion-provincial relations, but war materials have to be made; we have to see to it that these men who have been idle are trained so that they can get back to their jobs. We must remember also that the people who are going to have to make these things are people in the higher age classes. I am all in favour of youth training; it is a splendid idea, but thousands of these younger people who have enlisted and will enlist more and more as time goes on will have to be replaced by older people; and where are we going to get the skilled labour required when already we almost have a shortage of it? These men have to be trained. Before the bill to be based on this resolution is brought down we should have a clear statement of government policy with respect to this whole situation. I am afraid that the real reason we cannot get any statement of policy from the government is that they have no policy in regard to the matter. That is the answer.

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