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Van Horne, Voice of the People in Ottawa

on Sunday, 01 June 1958. Posted in Politics

When members of Parliament speak in the House of Commons, they are generally careful to keep on the party line, exalting or blaming the government according to which side they belong. This is one reason why demands backed by the will of the people at large are more often than not left out or only timidly mentioned on the floor of the House.

Not so, however, with Mr. J. C. Van Horne when on May 20, he spoke on the address in answer to the speech from the Throne.

Mr. Van Horne represents the New Brunswick constituency of Restigouche-Madawaska. He belongs to the Conservative party.

Elected for the first time in a by-election in 1955, he was then in the Opposition, and he lost no time in launching vigorous and repeated attacks against the policies of the liberal party in power and its indifference to the sufferings caused by the restriction of credit and the ensuing unemployment on a growing scale.

He has kept his fighting spirit after the accession of the Conservative party to power. While rendering homage to Diefenbaker's government for having "done more for his riding and the Atlantic provinces in seven months than all other governments put together have done since confederation", Mr. Van Horne does not hesitate to blame too much delay, too much red tape, in starting works planned and even duly approved by Parliament. He bears in mind the sufferings of the unemployed and their families. He also expresses his deep regret that the family allowance rates have been left at their 1945 level, which is an unpardonable injustice to families raising children.

The following excerpts from Van Horne's speech will help justify the heading at the top of this page.


"I hasten to speak, not without sorrow, of a most urgent problem affecting 8,000 men in my riding and more than 6,000 people in Canada. There is more unemployment and more suffering due to unemployment in my riding than at any time since the darkest days of the depression... In many homes, the cupboards are bare and children are hungry, cold and sick....

"In this country we see a mysterious, a unique phenomenon; in this cherished land which we call Canada, where every man, every citizen is potentially the richest man on earth, thousands of innocent children suffer from hunger, cold and want.

"Speaking only of my riding now, public projects are scarcely started although they were approved many months ago. Too many members of the top echelon of the civil service did not catch the urgency to cut red tape and to move quickly... We simply cannot operate at the snail's pace for which the old liberal regime was noted and for which it was kicked out of office. I ask that the decks be cleared for action. I ask that we move more quickly and more swiftly. If we need another 100 engineers to get these projects moving now, for goodness sake, let us get another 100 engineers...

"This leads me to the problem of unemployment insurance and labor policies generally. I am grateful to see that the period in which seasonal benefits may be drawn has been extended for those who have sufficient stamps. But how many times must I tell you that this is not sufficient? What is urgently needed, is a complete overhaul of the Unemployment Insurance Act, to ensure justice and due consideration and the rights of unemployment insurance benefits to all those who need unemployment insurance benefits... All benefits should be increased to at least one half of the worker's salary and for as long as a person is without work because employment is unavailable for him...

The Canadian National Railways

"When our hard-pressed potato farmers found prices running last spring at $4 a barrel they asked for reefer cars in St. Leonard, 25 miles from Edmundston, so they could ship their potatoes and get the higher price for them. They were told there were no reefer cars available, but on the very day they were told this some 70 reefer cars were lying idle in the C.N.R. yards in Edmundston. Those reefer cars were made available to us two weeks later when the price of potatoes had fallen to $2 a barrel because of the United States dumping of potatoes on the Canadian market.

"Lay-offs by the C.N.R. in my riding seem calculated to create the greatest hardship for men whose long years of service and the faithful performance of their duties entitled them to better and more just consideration. Some men were laid off for good who had only two or three more months to go before getting their pensions... The equipment of the C.N.R., at least in the Maritimes, is dilapidating and obsolete. Many of the buildings are falling apart. The C.N.R. has a tremendous opportunity to put thousands of men at work to get this equipment in better shape...

Family Allowances

After asking that the old age pensions be granted at 65 and without the means test, and that the definition of invalidity be broadened so that the pension be paid to all those who, because of illness or infirmity, are unable to earn a living, Mr. Van Horne presented the case of family allowances:

"Is has always been and still is my belief that family allowances represent one of the best and most equitable means of effecting a more just distribution of the wealth of the country to those who have the greatest claim to it, our children. The rates were fixed in 1945, on the basis of the buying value of the dollar at that time. But the cost of living has in many respects doubled since then, and if we were right in the amount we set in 1945, then we must now restore that purchasing power to our children, and that would mean doubling the family allowances. To do this means raising them to a unique rate of at least $12. per child per month; and they should be paid right through until the child reaches 18 years of age.

"I feel that too many members simply do not realize the hardships our children have to endure in privation and want in so many sections of the country and particularly in my own riding. It is my opinion, and it is shared by many, that as long as any government fails to restore and maintain the purchasing power of family allowances we are falling short of doing our duty towards the children of the country. I submit that this long overdue action be taken now..

The Bank of Canada

"I wish to reaffirm and stress the formal demands of the government of my province made at the last sitting of the legislature for a royal commission to study, investigate and determine how best the Bank of Canada can serve Canada. The Bank of Canada should be under parliament and through it under the will of the Canadian people... I second the request of my province for a commission to investigate the Bank of Canada and monetary policies generally, and also request that the needed changes be carried out at the earliest possible moment.

The Housing Problem

"I am grateful for what the government has done to fight the recession and to help build more houses by making hundreds of millions of dollars available for housing and by reducing the down payments. But I respectfully submit that these measures are not sufficient and do not, in my riding and in many others, solve the housing problem. Our people for the most part cannot afford to disburse the still very high down payments demanded under present legislation...

"I ask very humbly that the Canadian government have as much confidence in the Canadian people in regard to housing as the United States government has in over 160 million Americans... In the United States, for an equipped house selling for $13,000, there is no down payment if the buyer is a veteran, and for the ordinary citizen the down payment is $400 only and that includes the legal fees...

The Canadian Broadcasting Company

"If this government ever inherited a mess, it was when we took over the C.B.C. The whole top echelon of the C.B.C. seems to be blinded by the wrong kind of liberalism. The C.B.C. is a source of more complaints than any other branch of this government. I suggest that the government sell the C.B.C. and make it completely independent of the government. It is a well established and well known fact that if one medium of information is subject to government control, however slight and indirect, all mediums like the press are automatically placed in a position where they are not entirely free from government control...

* * *

Mr. Van Horne also pleaded for the farmers' right to loans, for whatever reasonable purposes they need them. They are producers, just as the person who manufactures anything is a producer.

He denounced the unfairness of the major oil companies, which have a known price for small business, and small consumers, but a secret and lower price for big consumers, thus squeezing small distributors out of business and making the poor pay through the nose to make the rich more powerful.

He also touched on several other subjects.

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