Hon. Milton F. Gregg (Minister of Labour):
I thank the hon. member for sending me notice of the question. I should add that other members in the Toronto and greater Toronto area have brought this matter to my attention, both since the house opened and before it opened.
The situation in Toronto, as reported to me this morning, is showing definite evidence of improvement, which is indicated by a fall of 700 in the total number of applicants for jobs between February 21 and 28 last. The less buoyant situation in regard to the employment in Toronto and, indeed, in Ontario, has been receiving constant attention during the winter. While the seasonal dip has been much greater in this area during the past winter than in the immediately preceding winter, all the reports I have received indicate that the unemployment is to a very large
degree seasonal, and I am confident that by early summer the demand will be for more workers.
Unemployment insurance regular benefits, plus supplementary allowances provided for two years ago by parliamentary action in amending the Unemployment Insurance Act, are alleviating the situation very greatly. During December, 1951, and January, 1952, the total insurance payments in the city of Toronto were $1,671,631.20. It is true that unemployment insurance benefits leave a problem for the city in caring for those who could not accept work if work were available, and a comparatively small number who are not entitled to unemployment insurance benefits for several reasons, including (1) having been paid all benefits to which they are entitled; (2) benefits not yet being due; (3) cases where the amount paid under the Unemployment Insurance Act is insufficient to meet the needs of the family.
I am happy to say that in Toronto the number in this fringe class has shown a considerable reduction in February as compared with January, the figures given me this morning by representatives of the city of Toronto being 295 families in February as compared with 517 families in January.
This morning my colleague the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (Mr. Harris) and I had a very helpful discussion with representatives from Toronto and Hamilton on this problem. Those attending on behalf of Toronto were Controller David Balfour, Controller Ford Brand; from Hamilton, Mayor Lloyd Jackson, Controller Samuel Lawrence and Controller H. Arnott Hicks.
Throughout the discussion both delegations expressed the belief that the unemployment insurance commission could, under its existing powers, do more to cope with the present situation than it is now doing. I therefore asked that a member of the commission go to these two cities to hold such hearings or investigations as are necessary to ensure that maximum benefits are being derived under the Unemployment Insurance Act and regulations, and to report thereon. This the commission has agreed to do at a very early date.
Subtopic: UNEMPLOYMENT IN TORONTO AND HAMILTON