Arthur Wentworth ROEBUCK

ROEBUCK, The Hon. Arthur Wentworth, Q.C.

Personal Data

Trinity (Ontario)
Birth Date
February 28, 1878
Deceased Date
November 17, 1971
barrister, newspaper editor, newspaper owner

Parliamentary Career

March 26, 1940 - April 16, 1945
  Trinity (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 53 of 54)

July 16, 1940


The Prime Minister moved that resolution over twenty years ago and I had the honour of seconding it on the floor of the convention. So I have supported such a move for a long time. I do not think it is necessary for any of us to protest our interest in this legislation, our loyalty to the principle involved and our desire to see it work. I know this legislation will pass, and I do not think it is necessary for us to support it by making long speeches either in the committee or in the house.

Full View Permalink

June 25, 1940

Mr. A. W. ROEBUCK (Trinity):

May I have the privilege of saying a word in connection with this resolution? I should like to put on record my approval of it, for two reasons. The first is that I come from an industrial riding where in my judgment a great deal of benefit will be distributed among a very large number of people as a result of the projected measure. I should like to tender to the government the satisfaction which, I know, so many working men and women will feel on hearing of the success of this measure and their congratulations to the government for at last bringing it to a successful conclusion. My second reason is that for many years I have expressed myself on innumerable occasions as in favour of this legislation. I was present at the great convention of 1919 when it was referred to with approval by the Liberal party; and furthermore, in much more recent times I represented the province of Ontario before the privy council in England in the discussion of the measure when it was under review in the constitutional reference. On that occasion I made an effort on behalf of

the province to save the measure constitutionally. We went over the various arguments which were advanced to show its constitutionality, and most of them were discarded. I pinned my faith to the one thought that it might fall within the clause: " peace, order and good government." The argument was not very strong, however, and at the time I doubted its soundness. The privy council agreed with me in the doubt. Still, it was an effort to save the measure and the advantages and benefits which I knew, and my province knew, would flow from it.

The measure has been attacked in the house this afternoon, first, by the hon. member for Lethbridge (Mr. Blackmore) on the ground that it is not a cure for unemployment; second, by the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Maclnnis) on the ground that it is not a cure for social ills. Well, it does not purport to be either of those things, and it seems to me important that this measure be not damned in its initial stages by being advertised as something which it is not. It is hardly fair to attack legislation because it is not something which it does not purport to be. It is much fairer to consider it on the basis of what it is.

It is a limited measure. It does not purport to go to the root of unemployment or to prevent unemployment. What it does do is, in a limited number of cases, for certain classes, provide relief to those who have been in employment at one time and then lose their employment.

It should not be considered anything else than that, and should be judged on the merits of the proposed bill as it will be or as it is. But I am satisfied, after long consideration of this measure, that as years go by it will bring comfort and benefit to many, many thousands of our fellow citizens; and that, Mr. Speaker, is enough. On that ground, the ground of what the legislation is, not what it is not, I congratulate the government on at last bringing it to real success.

Full View Permalink

June 11, 1940


This parliament passed an act giving the right to organize. It was in the form of an amendment to the criminal code and was passed at the session before last. It has not been adopted by the province of Ontario, and I hope that the ministry of labour will find some method of making that law applicable to Ontario irrespective of those who now oppose it. There is great work ahead of the ministry of labour and I should like to see this resolution passed unanimously in order to strengthen the hand of the minister in carrying on social work which is in his charge and perhaps in meeting some of the obstructions that are in his path from other jurisdictions.

Subtopic:   194U
Full View Permalink

June 11, 1940


My hon. friend knows

the province; it is the one from which he and I come, the province of Ontario. I do not say that Ontario is the only province which has been guilty of brutality toward the single unemployed, but it is one of the guilty provinces. It is not so much my purpose to make charges against provinces or against those who administer the provinces as it is to call attention to the unfortunate condition of these young men. Not so long ago someone in this house described them as walking the streets and highways, sleeping in parks at night and riding the rods from place to place vainly looking for something to do. These are only illustrations, but they strike at the very vitals of this resolution.

What is involved in this resolution? I hold in my hand a report published by the Department of Labour in connection with activities carried on under the Unemployment and Agricultural Assistance Act, 1939. At page 40 of this report I find published the amounts of money which the Dominion of Canada has granted from time to time under the advice of the Minister of Labour for the alleviation of distress in our provinces. From 1930 to the end of the fiscal year 1939A0 we have expended-perhaps this is the best money we have spent-a total of S377,000.000. In the fiscal year which has just closed, that of 1939-40, we shall have


Unemployment Relief-Mr. Roebuck

expended something like $30,000,000 in assisting the various provinces to minister to poverty in our midst. During that period there was spent in Ontario a total of $111,000,000. We have actually expended over $99,000,000 upon enterprises in which the provinces and dominion joined as partners.

I think every hon. member would agree that we should continue that expenditure notwithstanding the other difficulties which now confront us. This resolution should be passed unanimously. In this connection perhaps it will not be amiss-I do not know that I violate any rule of etiquette of this house-if I pay a tribute to the minister under whom these expenditures are now made and to the good work which I know personally he has performed in his department. Recently I sat on two boards appointed under the Industrial Disputes Investigation and Conciliation and Labour Acts, and I had a good deal to do with bringing about the appointment of another board just shortly before this house assembled. I have seen the minister in action, and I can report to his fellow members the vigour, intelligence, enterprise and, may I add, the success with which he has carried on his work.

In addition, another reason why we should pass this resolution is that the figures issued by his department are fairly satisfactory. Of course nothing could be absolutely satisfactory in the alleviation of distress; probably we should not have any distress; but putting all that aside, they are fairly satisfactory as figures go. I notice this, that the grand total of direct relief recipients has decreased since March of last year, 1939, from 1,027,000 to

708,000 persons. That is a considerable reduction and one which could be reported, I think, with a great deal of pleasure. It means that as many as 259,000 people have gone off the relief rolls of the Dominion of Canada in one month as compared with the other. Only two provinces in the whole dominion do not show improvement in this regard, namely, Quebec and Prince Edward Island. It is difficult, of course, to give explanations of matters of this sort, but I think one could explain it to the province of Quebec by saying that highway construction is not nearly as active in that province this year as it was last year in view of the recent provincial elections. They had an estimated 10,000 men working on the roads of the province of Quebec last year, but there are a great many fewer working there to-day. These people who were working on the roads will number, with their dependants, some 40,000 or 50,000, and that explains, I think, why it is that the decrease in the numbers of those on relief to be found in all the other provinces is not rMr. Roebuck.]

observed equally in the province of Quebec. So far as Prince Edward Island is concerned, the relief rolls there have been kept up, I understand, by the difficult conditions through which the fishing industry is passing.

Full View Permalink

June 11, 1940

Mr. A. W. ROEBUCK (Trinity):

Mr. Chairman, it is with some hesitation that I have sought your recognition to-night, to address for the first time my fellow members of this historic assembly. I suppose all new members approach such an occasion with a certain diffidence, particularly if they realize the advantages which he who listens has over him who speaks. In making an address for the first time to a parliamentary assembly such as this, one is always conscious of the newness of the circumstances, of the unfamiliarity of the occasion, and of other conditions. Above all, one who is here for the first time or, rather, is on his feet for the first time in this assembly, would not have it thought that he assumes the role of a teacher to those who have possibly been in the house for many years longer than he.

Yet, Mr. Chairman, I am impelled to overcome this natural diffidence on my part because of the importance of the subject matter of the resolution under discussion this evening. Although that would be sufficient excuse for anyone, yet added to that is the interest which I have so long taken in matters of humanitarian importance such as the one involved in or arising out of the subject matter at present before us.

I could, I suppose, fancy a greater disaster; but certainly the disaster would be great indeed if it were anything like what would happen in my constituency and in many other constituencies in Canada should this resolution fail of passage. I do not suppose there is any chance of that occurring, and yet perhaps that is the test which one might apply to a measure. What would be the result were the measure not to pass?

This is a war parliament. I know that the minds of hon. members, as well as the minds of people throughout the country at large, are filled with the exceeding gravity of the world situation. I know that any question touching upon Canada's participation in the war and her effective contribution to it must take first place in our deliberations. In the very first instance, if we can, we must save the world for freedom and democracy, and we must protect our own shores from invasion, which is actually threatened at the present time. These matters come first.

And yet, second to the world problems before us are those problems of local concern associated with the welfare of our own people. After all, is it not one problem? The welfare of our own working people is really wrapped up in the problem of our foreign defence and of the preservation of the world at large for democracy and freedom. There is not very much difference between the soldier in the factory and the soldier serving in the front

line trenches. Each is equally essential to the success of our arms abroad. I do not believe that one could draw any distinction between them from the point of view of importance; one would not draw a distinction between the man who makes and fills a shell and the man who must fire it. Each of them is equally important to the final success of our arms in the field.

For this reason I suggest to the committee that this resolution is next in importance to those which have to do with the carrying on of the war itself. I know in court work it is necessary thoroughly to understand what it is one is discussing, and for that reason I place before hon. members that part of the resolution of greatest importance, eliminating some of the features of lesser importance. I read:

That it is expedient to bring in a measure to provide assistance in the alleviation of unemployment and agricultural distress out of moneys appropriated by parliament.

I am appalled by the very thought of what necessarily would happen in communities throughout Canada, and particularly in the community from which I come, were that resolution to fail to carry. I am not as familiar with the agricultural situation in Canada as I am with conditions in industrial and urban centres. But I shrink from a contemplation of the scenes which would occur in thousands of houses in the constituency from which I come and in the city which in part I represent-yes, and in many other industrial centres of Canada-were we in some way to withdraw from what we have been doing in the past, or if by some voluntary action on our part we even reduced the amount of the meagre assistance we have been giving in the past.

In the house and certainly in the country at large there has been a great deal of discussion on the question as to whether reliefees are undernourished; that is to say, whether our relief rates are so meagre or our relief so insufficient that those receiving it are actually undernourished. I do not purpose taking part in the debate, but I recollect a remark made by the hon. member for Renfrew South (Mr. McCann) the other night to the effect that the grandchildren of the refugees of today may pay the price of present-day food deficiencies. That was his opinion, and I accept it as the opinion of a medical authority of considerable standing in the community.

It is not necessary for us to decide the question, but I think every hon. member should agree with me when I say that whether relief is sufficient or insufficient, it would be highly undesirable were we by some voluntary act on our part to make conditions worse

Unemployment Relief-Mr. Roebuck

than they are to-day. A shortage of actual food-if there is a shortage-is not the only evil that comes from relief; and I have said that I would not debate that point. A shortage of foods is not perhaps the worst of the evils which come to the reliefee. In my judgment enforced idleness is a greater curse than a half-filled stomach. The old biblical injunction, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" was not a curse at all. It was a blessing, rather than a curse. It was a promise that labour and enjoyment should be united. And I am rather of opinion that they cannot be separated-not permanently, at all events; and if at all, only at times. War is a great disaster to fall upon any people. The war of 1914-1918 can be described as nothing less than a monster, major disaster. I am of opinion, and with some thought behind it, that the moral and physical degradation which resulted from the mass unemployment during the post-war period was a greater disaster to the manhood and womanhood of Canada than was the war itself.

The hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell) stated in the house the other day that a nation's chief asset is its people. That is not a new sentiment by any means. He did not invent that statement, in fact I think he quoted it. But whether new or not, I should like to join with him in that expression. I should like to pay what I think is perhaps a deserved tribute to the members of the third parties that sit to the left of the Speaker. These hon. gentlemen have seen a vision, a vision of a better social state. I think the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar has had a glimpse of the city beautiful that is built upon a hill, and I honour him for it. I cannot always tread the path that they are following, but they are travelling what they are convinced is the upward climb to the city that is built upon a hill. I give these gentlemen credit for the humanitarian attitude they have adopted since I have been listening to them here and as I knew them by reputation before I became a member of this house. There are not many in the house who are ready to give them credit.

The hon. member for Parkdale (Mr. Bruce) is not in his place. He knows something about the poor of our cities. He was the chairman of a housing commission which with considerable labour and not small expense investigated living conditions in Toronto. His report was made in 1934, and in it I find the statement that 2.000 houses in that city are unfit for habitation. After making an investigation of that kind and with the knowledge that he must possess as a result of that experience and that, expenditure of public money, it seems 95S26-441

to me unfortunate that the hon. member should be wasting the time of this house and his own time in making partisan attacks upon his political opponents. He would be better engaged in joining with some of the rest of us in endeavouring to improve the condition of our fellow citizens. The hon. gentleman knows considerably more about the tanks that are to be found under waistcoats, and that walk around on two legs and frequently require to be filled than he does about the tanks which are in service at the front.

I invite him to join with some of the rest of us in attempting to find remedies for at least some of the unfavourable conditions to which I have referred. This might be possible with a display of sufficient good-will among men of good-will; it will not be found in partisan recriminations. As I say, the hon. member is not in the chamber, but I suppose he will read my remarks later. I ask him to join with me in protesting against the kind of housing which so many of our fellow citizens are condemned to use. I invite him to join with me in protesting against the cold brutality with which one province at least has kicked out the homeless, transient, single unemployed.

Full View Permalink