Mr. W. A. WALSH (Mount Royal):
Mr. Speaker, with your kind permission, before saying a few words about the subject under discussion may I offer congratulations to the hon. member for West Kootenay (Mr. Esling) upon passing another milestone in life. Perhaps I may be permitted also to express the hope that he has many years ahead of him and that many of them will be spent, not on this but on the other side of the chamber.
I would not intrude into this debate did I not realize and appreciate that a new member making his initial effort is given every possible consideration by older members who have had more experience. My main reason for taking part in this discussion is my long experience with young men and young women. I concur with the mover of the resolution (Mr. Heaps) in his expression of sympathy for the young men and women of this country because of the position in which they find themselves to-day. That position is not of their own making; they have been called upon to suffer intensely because of conditions prevailing at the present time. I gained further encouragement from listening to the very able address made earlier this week by the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers). I offer him my sincere congratulations upon his address. I hope that some of the principles which he enunciated will be brought down in the form of legislation in the very near future so that we shall have something concrete to discuss and not have to continue to deal with abstract problems.
For the past eight years we have been going through a period of distress, but this is not the first time in the history of the world that a period of distress has overcome us. I look back to the latter part of the seventeenth century when our forefathers were changing over from hand to machine labour and think of the distress that followed in the wake of that change. I look back to the social revolution that followed immediately the change in the economic life of the people of that time. Conditions which prevailed then were similar to those which have prevailed during our own lifetime. We have seen a remarkable economic change in the adoption of electrically driven machines and other types of machinery which have largely relieved man of heavy labour. Between the industrial and social revolutions occurred the Napoleonic wars which aggravated a rather unfortunate situation. In our own day the great war accentuated conditions which would have occurred even though the war had
not taken place. We are in the midst of change and we must readjust the social fabric of this country to meet the changes that have taken and are now taking place. The main trouble and difficulty in Canada is the fact that compared with other countries of the world we are many years behind in social legislation. We have not kept up with the economic and industrial changes which have occurred during the past twenty-five years.
I should like to point out one peculiar fact in connection with conditions which prevail in this country. During the early part of this century we entered upon a period of tremendous expansion. I recall the words of that great Canadian statesman, a man who led this house for many years, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, when he said that the nineteenth century belonged to the United States of America, but the twentieth century would belong to Canada. That statement was true then and is true to-day; the only difficulty is that we started to build on the expectation of an immediate realization of that statement. The development of Canadla has been impeded by the war and by industrial conditions which developed after Sir Wilfrid made that statement. We are overdeveloped in our railway system; we are overdeveloped in our industrial system ; we are overdeveloped in our governmental system, and the result is that we find ourselves unable to cope with a situation which at its best would have been bad enough but which was further aggravated by this period of tremendous expansion.
We have considerable unemployment in our midst to-day. The other evening the remark was made from the other side of the house that unemployment began to be felt only after 1930. Unemployment actually made its presence felt in this country in 1925; it was only accentuated and forced upon our attention in 1930. Government reports show that in the heyday of our prosperity, in 1928, the number of unemployed in Canada was actually 146,000 people. That figure did not take into account those who are usually unemployed, such as the indigent class which we have with us always, or those who are seasonally unemployed. The figure shows that the unemployment situation began to develop long before 1930 when it was brought home to us so forcibly.
It would be useless for me to attempt to inquire into all the various causes and reasons which might be advanced for the depression out of which we are striving to find our way at the present time. It will be sufficient for me to direct the attention of hon. members to some figures. Lack of income on the part
Retiring Allowances-Mr. Deachman
of our Canadian citizens is responsible to a large degree for the over supply of materials and commodities with which we find ourselves. I notice that in 1929 the total income of the Canadian people was $5,500,000,000; in 1932 this had shrunk to $3,181,000,000. a shrinkage of over two billion dollars. When you take out of circulation in this country a purchasing power of over two billion dollars the natural consequence is a lack of employment and a lack of ability on the part of the people to get the wherewithal with which to enjoy life.
There is another point I should like to raise, one with which all hon. members on this side may not agree. A year ago my faith in the Conservative party was emphasized and reestablished in no uncertain degree by the series of addresses given by our leader. The statements that he made at that time were implemented by measures passed by the house, which measures represented considerable progress in social legislation. It is my hope and expectation that something further will be done along that line and that the legislation passed last year will be found to be in order and will be supplemented by additional legislation introduced at this session by the present government. We are in dire need of advanced social legislation; the Canadian people are clamouring for that type of legislation, and rightly so. I feel that they have a right to demand it, for in my opinion it is the first duty of the state to provide for the sustenance of the people living within it. The statement I wanted to make, with which many members might disagree, I would put in these words: We have reached a point where we know there is a surplus of labour. I am going to say this, and I am open to contradiction and correction if I am wrong in my line of reasoning and the conclusions I have reached: Never again in the history of Canada are we going to have a balanced budget in respect to labour conditions in this country. There will always be a surplus of labour in the labour market not only of Canada but of the world, and for that reason I am keenly urging that some action be taken in relation to social legislation in order to meet a necessity which has arisen and is bound to remain with us. This surplus of labour must be looked after; it is our duty to look after every
class of citizen living in Canada. And these people can be taken care of only by means of legislation such as is proposed in the motion before us and legislation of a similar type.
As I said in the first place, I am expecting great things from the new Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers). Although he sits on the opposite side, I admire his capacity; I know his ability and I feel that if he is given a free hand by other members on his side of the house he will bring in legislation that will tend to alleviate some of the distress with which we are faced at the present time.
In conclusion I wish to emphasize this fact as forcibly as I can: Social legislation must immediately be introduced and we must take cognizance of the fact that there is a surplus of labour in the labour market; we must take cognizance of the fact that there will always be a surplus of labour, and we must adjust our social legislation to meet a circumstance of that kind.
Topic: RETIRING ALLOWANCES
Subtopic: PROPOSED ALLOWANCES AT AGE SIXTY AND OVER