March 9, 1932 (17th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Frederick George Sanderson


Mr. F. G. SANDERSON (South Perth):

Mr. Speaker, to my mind the resolution which has been introduced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bennett) is one of the most important pieces of legislation brought before the house this session. It deals with unemployment and farm relief and affects not only tens of thousands of people; when the husbands and wives and children are taken into account it means that probably a million and a half or two million people are affected. The discussion thereon should receive the serious thought of every hon. member.
We have had in this country from time to time what have been known as hard times or depressions, and it must be said of the Canadian people as a whole that they face a crisis or anything which seems to be in the nature of a disaster with courage second to none. W'e have had depressions before, and in all probability as time goes on we will have others. They will occur when this government has passed on and perhaps when most, if not all, of the hon. members have left the scene. We had a depression which started in 1921 and extended into 1922 and 1923. I do not intend to deal in detail with the period of the great war, but for a moment I should like to go back to those days.
During the years from 1914 to 1918 the people of this country were under terrific stress and strain. They were keyed up from time to time with the news from the front; some of them were waiting anxiously for the cables announcing the causualty lists, and so

Unemployment Continuance Act
on, but their morale was sustained not only by their loyalty but because they were kept busy. There was no unemployment and, after all, the great tonic for idleness or for worry is activity and work. I might say that not only was every man and woman active in connection with the war, but there was also some profiteering, with which I do not intend to deal.
I desire to contrast that trying period from 1914 to 1918 with this depression, which in its magnitude and its ramifications is perhaps the greatest we have experienced. I am not unmindful of the efforts put forth by this government to grapple with the situation which confronted them when they took power in 1930 and which has continued down to the present day. I do not intend to hark back to the election campaign of 1930 other than to say that in the campaign the present Prime Minister, then the leader of the Conservative party, and all his candidates, made of unemployment a federal issue. Nothing was said in regard to the provinces taking part in this work, and very little in connection with the participation of municipalities. The then leader of the opposition made it a federal issue. He told the people of this country, not once but a dozen times, in so many words: If you elect me as Prime Minister and I form a government, with my bow and arrow I will kill and end unemployment in this country. That was the effect of the words he uttered. It is only fair to make a few observations in connection with the methods adopted by this government in regard to unemployment. As I said before, I am not unmindful of the efforts put forth, nor do I think the people of this country are unmindful of them; but I do think the majority of the people are of the opinion that 'whatever the efforts may have been, the results have fallen far short of expectations.
First of all, I should like to go back to the special session held in September, 1930. That session was called largely for the purpose of devising ways and means and passing legislation to end unemployment. The first method adopted by the government at that special session was the raising of the tariff to a point higher than any other government has ever attempted to raise it, and higher, I hope, than any government in the future will attempt to raise it. But this did not have the effect of curing unemployment; on the contrary, it made the unemployment greater, because people of moderate means had to pay more for the necessities of life. Therefore the increase of the tariff had no effect at all in the way of alleviating unemployment.

Then there was the measure under which an amount of $20,000,000 was voted to relieve or put an end to unemployment. I am not criticizing that in any way, nor did the opposition criticize it at the time it was brought in. They did have something to say as to the way- in which the money should be spent, and made certain suggestions which were not taken seriously or acted upon by the government; but the principle of asking for a vote of $20,000,000 was not opposed by hon. members on this side. As a matter of fact, the opposition would not at that time have criticized the granting of a larger sum, but the government thought $20,000,000 was the amount they should have to spend.
I want to speak of the mistakes the government, in my judgment, made at the time they had that amount voted. First of all, the government made a mistake even before the calling of the special session-and in the remarks I make I want it to be clearly understood that I am not in any way critical of the hon. gentleman who held the portfolio of Minister of Labour from the inception of this government until his resignation a few weeks ago. He is a capable man, a man of integrity, and one who, I think, has for many years kept in close touch with labour conditions in Canada. I am sorry, that the gentleman, as the Prime Minister pointed out not long ago, has become a casualty through being overworked and broken in health. But in that appointment to the portfolio of labour the mistake made by the government was this: if there is any place where a minister of labour should not have a seat, it is in the other chamber of this parliament. He was not close to the common people. He could not occupy a seat in this house in the special session of 1930 or in the session of 1931. Many questions were asked of the Department of Labour; sometimes they were answered and sometimes they were not. But in my opinion the results would have been far better for this country and for the people who are out of employment had the office of minister of labour been occupied by a member of the House of Commons.

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