April 2, 1930 (16th Parliament, 4th Session)


Thomas Cantley

Conservative (1867-1942)


Mr. Speaker, I take it that it is not necessary to enter into any argument to prove that there is a very large amount of unemployment in this country. I wish to thank the hon.. member for North Winnipeg (Mr. Heaps) for having brought this matter to the attention of the house. With a great deal of what he has said I am in complete accord. With some of his statements, however, I cannot agree. For instance, he made this statement:
It is claimed by economists that during the past twenty years production has approximately doubled, but wages, that is, real wages, have remained almost stationary. That means that the position of the workingman has become relatively worse instead of better. When production becomes greater and greater, when we are able to produce more of the things of life, the position of the workingman should be better, but we find that it is exactly the reverse.
Speaking broadly, I think it will be admitted that the position of the working man and his family as regards not only the necessities of life but also its comforts and its sources of enjoyment is better to-day than it was, say ten, twenty or thirty years ago. As to that I do not think there can be any argument. I have lived all my life among a working people, coal miners, steel workers, artisans of various kinds. I know their scale of living is better and their opportunities for recreation are greater now, I am glad to say, than they were thirty years ago.
Again, the hon. gentleman stated:
It requires to-day a smaller number of men to produce a given quantity of commodities and that is why less labour is required and why therefore the amount of unemployment should become greater and greater.
To overcome that difficulty of growing and increasing unemployment, he suggests that what is required is a decreased working day and an increased purchasing power on the part of the masses. I fully agree that a shorter-working day would give the workmen of this country more time for social enjoyment and self-improvement, and I believe that the great majority of our workmen would take advantage of such opportunities and would benefit very greatly thereby.

Unemployment-Mr. Cantley
With his statement that this question is not provincial, but national in character, I am also in complete accord, as well as with his statement that we cannot expect provincial governments to deal with this vitally important matter, which is really a matter of trade and commerce, and should therefore come within the purview of the federal government, not the provincial authorities.
The Minister of Labour is reported as making the following statement in his recent address in the city of London:
I believe during the time of depression the workers have some claim to the portion of profits made by their labour during favourable years.
I would like here to ask the Minister of Labour this question: How can the labourer obtain, or how can the minister obtain for the workers of Canada, a portion of the profits that they have made by their labour during past years-during say, 1929, or 1928, or during any past year? Does the Minister of Labour propose confiscation? If not, how does he suggest that the labourer can get his share of the fruits of his past labour? There is not much use in the Minister of Labour putting before the working people of this country suggestions of a kind which are absolutely impossible of being carried out.
.So far as seasonal unemployment is concerned, we in Canada, due to climatic conditions, are bound always to have that problem with us to a greater or lesser extent. Such is preeminently the case in the mining centres of Nova Scotia, also elsewhere in Canada, in regard to some other occupations. But the question is much wider than simply one of climatic conditions; it is infinitely more serious than that.
In the matter of the coal output of the Dominion of Canada, I find that for February last, the output was 26 per cent below that of the previous month-January-and 11 per cent below the monthly average of the last five years. On the other hand, I find that our import of coal during February, 1930, was 1,043,041 tons-a substantial increase over the corresponding month of last year, and this notwithstanding the well known slackening up of trade and present unemployment.
While our domestic coal production during February last was 11 per cent below that of the monthly average of the five year preceding period-and many of our coal miners are on short time-the imports of Soviet coal, which began in 1928, increased during 1929, and it is said that they will be still further greatly increased during the coming season. For it is claimed by the coal dealers that a quarter of a million tons of this fuel will be by them 2419-77J
imported into Canada during the coming season. What does that mean? It means that we are asking our miners in the east in particular-it does not apply so much to the west-to compete with Soviet labour. I shall not go into any lengthy disquisition as to what that means, because every man of intelligence in this house knows exactly what it means and what it involves. Should our miners in Nova Scotia be asked, and they are being asked, to compete with Soviet labour under all the degrading conditions that prevail in regard to that particular class of labour in Russia? That Soviet coal is admitted into Canada into Montreal, and to-day lies on the docks of Halifax without paying a cent of duty. It has been coming in, in very considerable quantities and will continue to come in larger quantities unless this government takes action to restrain it of which frankly I have very little hope in view of their past indifference.
Out of this question of unemployment, Mr. Speaker, arises one of the saddest tragedies of life that I know of. That has already been referred to much more ably than I can depict it by the hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Garland), who has just taken his seat. I know of no experience that is sadder than to see men, the fathers of families with small children at home, men who are able and willing and anxious to work and daily going out to seek it, being unable to find employment; while they and their families are suffering, in consequence, privation and want and distress. Unfortunately, such conditions do prevail in Canada to-day, and men in this condition are to be seen in scores in every considerable town and in all centres of population throughout Canada-from Sydney in the east to Vancouver in the west. I doubt if there was any time during the last fifteen or twenty years when unemployment was greater in Canada than it is to-day, speaking generally with respect to the whole country, and I do not think that the unemployment is confined exclusively to the industrial towns and cities.
One of the most depressing experiences that I have had in recent years is the meeting of a constant stream of men, both heads of families and young men, who besiege my door almost every day while I am home, pleading with me to find employment for them or to intercede on their behalf with the heads of local industrial establishments; and to see, as I have seen day after day for months past, scores of men of the army of the unemployed standing in groups outside the gates of our collieries, steel works, and ear-building plants, looking for employment which is not to be

Unemployment-Mr. Cantley
had. I suppose the same conditions can be seen in other industrial centres in Canada, though I cannot speak of my own knowledge as to that.
Again, consider the scores of young men who, after years of study, graduate from our universities each year, not one-fifth of whom, if indeed, one-tenth, can or do find suitable or congenial employment within the country of their birth, and must perforce go to the United States in search of employment which is denied them in their own country.
Unemployment insurance would probably help a little those who are temporarily unemployed, but at best it is only a palliative. It is no cure. It may help temporarily, I admit, but it is not the cure for unemployment in Canada. Unemployment in Canada is both agricultural and industrial and it is largely due to our vicious fiscal system. Inasmuch as the fiscal policy of the country is under the control of the federal government, who alone can determine the terms on which foreign agricultural and manufactured products may compete with our agriculturists and artisans, the prior obligation as to matters of relief during times of unemployment lies with the federal government, not with the provincial authorities. In my judgment the only effective cure for unemployment as also for the matter of immigration is the inauguration and vigorous application of a national policy which will protect the Canadian producer on the farm and in the mine, and the workers in our manufacturing establishments by damming back the flood of products coming in from other lands where the workers are not enjoying the standard of living which we should like to see generally adopted, and which to a large extent to-day prevails in this country.
Mr. Speaker, I ask the house to consider for a moment the fact that we are importing iron and steel products from the United States alone to the value of over $1,000,000 a day. Now, I state, and I think with some reasonable basis of authority, that seventy-five per cent of those products could be and ought to be produced in Canada, and would be so produced had we reasonable protection. Did such conditions now prevail, it would mean that an army of 200,000 men would find employment during every working day in the year at wages as high as $2,000 per annum. Those facts should be faced, taken into account and definitely dealt with. Why do we send over $1,000,000 a day to our well-to-do steel producing friends across the line, while Canadian furnaces are standing cold and our workers are idle? Why create such a balance of trade against ourselves?
There is but one reason why we do not make the great bulk of that material in Canada, and that is that our fiscal policy is absolutely and stupidly wrong. Again I would point out that responsibility for unemployment rests primarily upon the federal government. My hon. friends opposite may treat this matter lightly, but I want to tell them that they have entirely failed to remedy the situation. For years they have refused to take any effective action. This is not the first time this matter has been brought to their notice, it is not the first time that I and others have called attention to this situation. The government has done nothing. This matter of the iron and steel duties, we have been told, has been before the tariff board for more than three years. We have protested at the lack of definite action, but nothing has been done. What the government now propose to do I do not know; they will not tell us until after the recess and when the matter is dealt with it will, I fear, be in a way that will fail to produce satisfactory results, or the results which I am confident the people as a whole greatly desire. For that reason, and others to which I have referred, I confidently believe that just so soon as the electorate of Canada are given an opportunity to express their views in regard to the continuance of this government in office, they will express themselves in terms which will be unmistakable and which will result in others being called upon to take up the work in which this government has so signally failed.
I believe, Mr. Speaker, in the policy of Canada for Canadians, and that the most effective cure for unemployment is by the introduction and maintenance of such a fiscal policy as will ensure the production in Canada of the largest proportion of our consumptive wants which under a reasonable protective tariff policy our own people can supply, and which will thereby contribute to the greatest good to the greatest number of the people of this Dominion.
Mr. CAMERON R. McINTOSH (North Battleford): Mr. Speaker, since it is within a few minutes of six o'clock, may I move the adjournment of the debate?

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