December 9, 1909

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. KING.

I am just taking the hon. gentleman's words as I put them down, and as I think a reference to ' Hansard ' will show that he gave them. The words were:

' Even if this measure has the effect which the hon. member for South Toronto says it will have, I am prepared to vote for it.' Every hon. member knows that the hon. member for South Toronto said that the Bill was altogether impossible.

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CON

Arthur Meighen

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN.

The hon. member for South Toronto, in describing the measure as impossible, described its effect. Referring to the effect of the Bill, he said that it extended to cases where men had contracted to supply goods to the government. The hon. member for Cumberland (Mr. Rhodes) referred to the effect, not the characterization of the Bill.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. KING.

I am quite prepared to leave it to the House to decide what the hon. member for South Toronto meant when he referred to the Bill as altogether impossible. The impression which I certainly got, not only from that particular remark, but from the whole tenor of his speech, Mr. MACKENZIE KING.

was that he, like myself, was prepared to support a measure which would really do something effective, but that he was not prepared to stand up in this parliament and say that he would support any measure when in his heart of hearts he felt that it would really do no good to the people on whose behalf it was proposed. And, in view of what has been said this afternoon, I feel that we cannot consider too carefully the question as to whether this measure is likely to do what the hon. gentleman who has introduced it hopes that it may do.

In so far as the Bill relates to the hours of labour on public works, I would like to point out that this government has already taken considerable steps towards meeting the object which the promoter of this Bill has in view. In 1900, the Hon. Mr. Mulock, now Sir Wm. Mulock, introduced into this House a resolution in favour of the payment of fair rates of wages to working men engaged on public works and the enforcing of the hours of labour current in the district where the work is carried on. Since that time the government has endeavoured to see that that resolution has been faithfully and fully carried out; and in all its contracts the government has caused to be inserted a clause requiring the contractor.to pay fair rates of wages and to give the workingmen employed by him the hours of labour current in the district where the work is carried on. The government has not relied simply on the safeguard of a general provision of this kind, but has appointed special officers, known as fair-wage officers, whose duty has been to go to the locality where any public work is to be carried on and prepare in advance a schedule of rates of wages and hours of labour, to which the contractor is required to agree before the contract is awarded.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. HUGHES.

May I ask if that is the case on all public works of the government?

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LIB
?

Mr HUGHES.

Quite the contrary. I can give you the cases. For instance, right in the town of Lindsay, on the government work of building the locks there, the men are not paid even the ordinary street wages.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. KING.

If that is the case, I am unable to understand how the representative of that district has allowed that condition of affairs to go on and never brought it to the attention of the government.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. HUGHES.

I will answer the hon. gentleman when he is through.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. KING.

Every member of this House knows, or ought to know, that that resolution was passed, and every member of this House knows, or ought to know, that- it is part of his duty to his constituents to see that if a resolution passed by this House is

not being carried out, the department which is responsible for the work shall be notified and be given the opportunity of looking into the matter; and I say, without fear of contradiction, that during the 8 years that I was deputy minister of the department and the short time that I have been privileged to be the Minister of the Department, no case has been brought to the attention of the department of alleged non-observance of this reso-tion which has not yet been fairly and fully investigated. I would ask hon. gentlemen to look at the annual report of the Department of Labour as presented to this House, in which, at page 132, they will find a statistical table of fair wage schedules prepared by the Department of Labour for departments of the government during the period from July, 1900, to March, 1907, inclusive. In that table they will find that the Department of Labour prepared during that period a total of 1,477 fair-wage schedules which have been inserted in contracts awarded by this government from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The total number prepared altogether is much larger than this. These schedules have not only been inserted in the contracts, but have been published in the 'Labour Gazette', so that the workingmen on whose behalf they have been inserted in the contracts would have an opportunity of seeing them and making sure that they were being paid the rates of wages specified. There have been some cases of contractors failing to pay the rates of wages which the schedules call for, and in all such cases which has been brought to the attention of the department the contractors have been obliged .to pay the difference to the men. The difference has been deducted in the first instance by the department which awarded the contract, and has been paid to the men. So that the government has not been neglectful of the purpose which the hon. mover of this Bill has in mind. But to take the step which he suggests is to go a good way beyond what up to the present time has been thought by this House to be advisable.

The Bill as introduced suggests no regard for existing conditions in any industry unless those conditions happen to be such that the eight hour day is already in force. Before a step of the kind proposed is taken, I think it would be well for this House to be fully informed as to its effect. I fear that if this Bill were passed in its present form, it would give rise to a good many serious complications. The h

up to the employer to say what he would pay and up to the men to see what they could get. I do not agree with my hon. friend. It is up to this House to tell all parties concerned what an Act of this kind means when it is on the statute-book, and to leave no doubts in anv man's mind as to what his privileges or his restrictions are under it. For that reason, if for no other, I think it is desirable that the House should have fuller information than it has at present on a measure which is likely to give rise to such serious complications. In the building trade there are a large number of men who have agreements with their employers. These agreements have been the result of negotiations during a long series of years. They have been effected in many instances, only after serious strikes or lock-outs, and they represent understandings between the employers and the men as to the conditions of employment. Some of these agreements are for three years, some for five years and some for other terms, and it seems to me that the effect of this measure upon agreements of that kind is another feature which should receive our most serious attention before we take any final action. If,i for instance, one of its effects would be that contractors would say to their workingmen: We do not wish to enter into an agreement with you, because we may have to change its terms in virtue of this legislation-if that would be one of its effects, it would be most unfortunate indeed. I do not say that such a consequence would necessarily follow, but I think that, on behalf of the workingmen themselves, that contingency should be clearly understood.

It seems to me desirable also that this House should know the extent to which the eight hour or nine hour or ten hour day is already in existence in different parts of the country. I have here a document which contains a mass of information on that subject, prepared by one of the fair wage officers of the Department of Labour. It gives a record of the hours of labour in the building trades and the different other trades in Canada; and I find that in almost every part of the country, there is a difference in the hours of labour, as compared with other localities, depending largely on the circumstances of the locality or of the particular province in which the work is being carried on. In some cases these differences are the result of climatic or other considerations. In some districts men work a shorter day because they can work the whole year round, and in others they work a longer day because they have not the same opportunity throughout the whole year to carry on their calling. Therefore before enacting legislation to determine arbitrarily the hours of work, we should give the men who are to be affected an oppor-

tunity of expressing their views. Under the circumstances, having regard to the desire of the hon. gentleman himself (Mr. Verville), that this Bill be not sent to the cemetery, as has been the fate of other *measures, the best thing we can do is to refer it to a special committee of this House, before which all parties concerned will have an opportunity of being heard. I would suggest therefore to my hon. friend that he should consider the advisability of having this Bill referred to a select committee, and I would suggest this not that the Bill may be side-tracked in any way but, to use the words of my hon. friend, in order to save it from going to the cemetery, as I fear it would, should a vote be taken now, judging by the discussion we have had.

Let me give another reason or two why I think it desirable that this measure should be referred to a special committee. My hon. friend from South Toronto (Mr. Macdonell) has spoken about legislation in the United States upon this subject, and he had in his hand a report of one of the select committees of the American House of Representatives. But that is only one of a half a dozen select committees which have dealt with similar measures across the line. As far back as 1862, the government of the United States enacted a measure very similar to the one now proposed, but what was the effect of that legislation? Whatever may have been the reasons which promoted Congress to pass it, this at least was the effect. Year after year the workingmen were continually representing to Congress that the measure was meaningless and useless, and session after session Congress appointed select committees to find out why it was impossible to make the measure what Congress hoped it would be. We would do well to profit by their experience. It would be well to have the reports of the different committees appointed by Congress laid before a special committee of this House so that they might be considered. I might point out further that in Nova Scotia there is at present a commission inquiring into a number of questions affecting the working classes. One is the question of the eight hour day, and it would be very much to the advantage of this House to have the finding of that commission on that subject. Further I think it would be an advantage to the House to have the opportunity of ascertaining what the fair wage officers of the department who have been preparing these schedules during the past eight or ten years, think would be the effect of a measure of this kind. For these reasons I hope my hon. friend will not press this measure but will agree to have it referred to a select committee, in order that all parties, both workingmen and employers, may have the opportunity of being heard, and in order that this House may have a further opportunity of doing some-Mr. MACKENZIE KING

thing on behalf of the workingman in whose interests we are invited to legislate.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. SAM. HUGHES (Victoria).

By the courtesy of my hon. friend from Cape Breton (Mr. Maddin) and inasmuch as I shall not be able to be present for some time after eight o'clock, I would ask to be given the opportunity of making a reply to the question of the hon. member for North Waterloo (Mr. King) as to why the member for the district (Victoria and Haliburton) did not report this matter. I might point out to him that the member for the district is not one of his fair wage officers and is not in the pay of the Labour Department, thank Heaven. I might also point out to him that the member for the locality did draw the attention of the House and of the Minister of Labour to the matter last year- not that I objected to it in any sense whatever, because I do not believe in this doctrine of putting that clause in these contracts. On the contrary, I think that a contractor should be at liberty to get his labour at whatever price he can and engage that labour for periods depending on the duties to be performed. But what had these fair wage officers of the hon. gentleman done for the labouring men? A young gentleman has been put at the head of the Labour Department, promoted over the stalwarts of the party who have been doing its work for years-and I am sure the Finance Minister will agree with me in that statement -and I want to point out an insignificant circumstance in connection with this department of his. There was a labour organization in the town I represent, (Lindsay), which became defunct. There were considerable funds in the treasury when it broke up, and under its constitution the officers of that association were empowered to dispose of these funds on following out a certain well disposed procedure. Were they permitted to do so? Oh, no. A gentleman by the name of O'Donoghue-possibly known to the Minister of Labour-appeared on the scene and undertook to take charge. And into whose hands did he seek to put the disposal of these funds? Into the hands of that horny handed son of toil Senator McHugh.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. KING.

May I ask the hon. gentleman to which O'Donoghue he refers?

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L-C
LIB
L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. HUGHES.

I mean the O'Donoghue. I mean the gentleman who, in season and out of season, has been making himself the tool of the Department of Labour for the benefit of the Liberal party; who grinds axes for that party up and down the country wherever he can. This gentleman appears on the scene. And to whom did he

entrust the disposal of this fund? Why, to that horny-handed son of toil, Senator McHugh.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. KING.

I would point out to the hon. member that Mr. O'Donoghue has nothing to do with the Department of Labour.

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L-C

James William Maddin

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. J. W. MADDIN (South Cape Breton).

I am in favour of the principle of an eight hour day for the labouring classes. But I would like to point out that while the Bill now before us, on its face and by its title, purports to be an Act respecting the hours of labour on public works, it is an entirely different measure in its effect. The first section of this Bill reads:

Every contract to which the government of Canada is a party, which may involve the employment of labourers, workmen or mechanics, shall contain a stipulation that no labourer, workman or mechanic in the employ of the contractor or subcontractor, or other person doing or contracting to do the whole or a part of the work contemplated by the contract, shall be permitted or required to work more than eight hours in any one calendar day

And so on. It was pointed out by the hon. member for South Wellington (Mr. Guthrie) that this Bill was likely to bring about the anomaly of some men in a workshop employed on government work working for eight hours a day while others in the same shop would be working for ten hours, and this, he .said, might breed discontent. I cannot see, from a reading of the Bill, that such a condition could possibly arise. Under the Bill as I read it, the government contractor is not allowed to employ any one, whether on government work or any other work, for a period of more than eight hours in the twenty-four. The Bill does not restrict the hours of labour to eight for those in the employ of the contractors who are on government work, but it says that ' no labourer .... in the employ of the contractor or sub-contractor ' shall be so employed. If after the word ' sub-contractor ' were added ' on the contract ' one could understand that this Bill aimed at making the eight hours applicable to work done on the government contract. But as the Bill stands now, this case might arise: In .some great industrial establishments, sav a steel works, if the owner entered into a contract to furnish steel rails to the government, then, under this /Bill, he could not employ his coachman, or the help round his own home, for more than eight hours a day. It seems to me that, as it stands at present, the Bill is impracticable. Let me point out for a moment the effect it would have, for instance, in the case of a certain- industry in the riding which I have the honour to represent. We have there the work.s of the Dominion Iron and Steel Company which owns a line of steamships which carry iron

ore from Wabana and dolomite and lime- -stone from Bras d'Or Lakes. If this Bill were in force, and the Dominion government should buy some steel rails from the Dominion Iron and Steel Company-they bought $29,000 last year-then when one of the company's boats left Wabana for the port of Sydney with a cargo of iron ore, at the conclusion of an eight hour day they would have to drop anchor or seek the shelter of a port till next morning; or, a vessel coming from Marble Mountain with a cargo of dolomite would be obliged to do the same thing. Thus the Bill is impracticable to the employer and impracticable to the employed. I submit that the hon. member for Maisonneuve (Mr. Verville) might well act on the suggestion offered by the hon. member for South Toronto (Mr. Macdonell) and have this Bill referred to a committee with power to alter it and have it made practicable in operation.

Now, with regard to the general principle of an eight hour day, I wish to take issue with my hon. friend from East Grey (Mr. Sproule) who says that it is ridiculous, preposterous, and declares that it cannot be successfully demonstrated to him that a man can accomplish as much work in eight hours as in ten. I may say to the hon. member that the product is not the result alone of the time devoted to the labour but also of the skill and the vitality put into it by the workman. For instance, in the coal mines of Nova Scotia within recent years, they have introduced coal-mining machines which are worked by compressed air at a very high pressure. The air is taken in from the reservoirs at the pit bottom at about 900 pounds pressure to the square inch. It . is conducted through the mines and used on these machines. A man is stretched out on his stomach at full length, grasping the handles of this powerful machine, weighing, perhaps, nine hundred or a thousand or even twelve hundred pounds, working, as I have said, at heavy pressure and pounding with a pick on the working face. There is a recoil that shakes and vibrates every part of the anatomy of the man operating the machine. It has been stated on apparently good authority that a man's working life devoted to the operating of such machinery, even at eight hours per day, is only five or six years on the average. People of high-strung, nervous dispositions operating machinery of this kind would break down more quickly than those less nervously constituted.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

May I ask the hon. member: Is not that exactly what I said?

In some lines of life eight hours would be *a long day, but in others it would not be a long day.

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L-C

James William Maddin

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. MADDIN.

That is what the hon. member for East Grey (Mr. Sproule) said at one point of his remarks. But he said

also that no man could convince him that the same amount of work could be accomplished in eight hours as in ten.

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CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPROULE.

In ordinary lines of work-and I still stick to it.

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L-C

James William Maddin

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. MADDIN.

However, the research of those who have devoted attention to this matter has led to conclusions on the subject. It has been stated by some manufacturers that they thought it was the last hour that gave them their profit, but they have discovered that it was the last hour that registered their loss-that their workmen had lost the vim and vitality with which they had pursued their labours earlier in the day, and that the last hour was carried on at a loss which seriously interfered with the profits of the employer. There is one instance which I will recommend to the hon. member for East Grey. The Messrs. Holden, of Bradford, England, the largest wool combers in the world, who have mills in France running 72 hours a week and mills in England running 56 hours a week, find that they can comb wool more cheaply in England than in France, though they pay higher wages for the short day in England than for the long day in France, and employ exactly the same machinery in both cases.

As pointed out by the Minister of Labour, this question is not a new one, it has been discussed from time to time in various countries throughout the civilized world. I was surprised to hear the Minister of Labour say that this was a matter upon which the House had very little information, and that consequently the House wTas not in a position to deal intelligently with it. Why, Sir, it is only the other day, in discussing the resolution on technical education, that the Minister of Labour pointed out that his department had taken the greatest care to gather statistics and data with regard to technical education, and that he had at his fingers end this data. I submit that, familiar as he is with the history of the eight hour question from 1862 in the United States, and for the last ten years since he has been Deputy Minister of Labour in Canada, with the knowledge tnac. this proposed legislation was first introduced into this House on the 11th of December, 1906, almost three years ago to-day. one would have thought that his department would have the necessary information to enable this House to deal intelligently with the subject. The subject has been agitated by labour organizations throughout this country for the last thirty years, and by labour bodies in a very active manner within the last ten or fifteen years. It is a matter with which the Department of Labour should be quite familiar, especially in view of the fact that they have had such ample notice.

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December 9, 1909