February 2, 1910

HOURS OF LABOUR ON PUBLIC WORKS


Hon. MACKENZIE KING moved that the second report of the special committee on hours of labour on public works be concurred in: He said: I might say that in introducing the motion on this subject the other day I may not have explained it to the House as fully as I should have, that this is a report of the committee appointed by the House to inquire into the subject, and that it was as chairman of the committee I presented the report. It was suggested by some members of the House that the appointment of any one to assist the committee was unnecessary, inasmuch as officers of the Department of Labour might be expected to do that work. It is true that we have in the Department of Labour officers who are capable of doing work of the kind; but the work which is required to be done would involve taking these gentlemen off their departmental work to do that which is of the nature of committee work. It was also suggested that this looked like an attempt to get some one a situation. In that connection I have only to say that the motion to retain a specialist for this purpose in the committee was made by an hon. gentleman sitting on the other side of the House, and I am quite sure he had no such idea in his mind when he made the motion. Further, I do not think any member of the committee had in mind anything other than the purpose of securing the best expert advice it was possible to obtain in connection with the furtherance of the work, so that when the report was brought down to the House it would be as complete as possible. Seeing that this is the unanimous report of the committee, I hope the House will concur in it.


CON

Richard Blain

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BLAIN.

I have nothing to add to what I said in the House a day or two ago.

I suppose that remark would apply to my hon. friend the Minister of Labour (Mr. King), because he has not added any new reason why the House should adopt this new principle. When the matter was be-Mr. CROCKET.

fore the House a few days ago the Prime Minister suggested that, as tnis was a new departure, time should be given to look into it. I hoped that the Minister of Labour would be able to give us some new reasons why the committee should ask that a specialist be appointed to gather information as to the labour legislation of other countries. My hon. friend's department is costing this country, according to the Auditor General's Report, about $112,000 every year; with a Minister of Labour, a deputy Minister of Labour, and a staff of officers, all new within the last few years; and if my hon. friend, after all these years of effort and expenditure, has not in his department now the legislation that is in force in other countries with which Canada has any relations, then I think the Labour Department is a distinct failure. I am not interested as to whether a gentleman on this side of the House or a gentleman on that side moved the motion in the committee. That is unimportant. What I do say is that whatever information is required by this subcommittee should he found in the Labour Department. If it is not found there, then my hon. friend the minister and his department are not doing what the people of this country expect them to do.

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LIB

George Gerald King

Liberal

Mr. KING.

In answer to the hon. gentleman (Mr. Blain) I would say that the legislation in question is to be found in the Department of Labour; but that is not what the committee is asking for. Legislation of this character passed by other countries has been the subject of interpretation in the courts, particularly in the United States, and in several states the courts have passed upon the effect of that legislation.

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CON

Richard Blain

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BLAIN.

Could not my hon. friend refer those matters to the Justice Department?

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LIB

George Gerald King

Liberal

Mr. KING.

The decisions of the courts are only one phase of the matter. But referring the matter to the Justice Department would not get over the difficulty of throwing upon a department of the government an amount of extra work which, having regard to the work the department is already doing, it could hardly be expected to undertake. My hon. friend has said that this is a new departure. I think he is mistaken. I am informed that in connection with other committees of the House a like course has been adopted for example in the case of the telephone committee, where the assistance of an expert was obtained. It is simply that the committee may have the benefit of expert knowledge on this very important question. One or two clerks of the department, if given this special work to perform, I have no doubt would discharge it satisfactorily, but to do that would involve their leaving other work

for a considerable time. I take it that this House is anxious, and certainly the country is anxious, that this measure should be furthered as expeditiously as possible, and it is to expedite the consideration of this Bill, and also to enable the House to have the fullest information possible, that the committee has made this recommendation.

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CON

Haughton Lennox

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LENNOX.

In referring to the expert employed in the case of the investigation in reference to telegraphs and telephones, my hon. friend is somewhat unfortunate. That was a case in which, it is true, we employed an expert, and a great deal of time of the members of this House was taken up in order to ascertain facts which were supposed to be useful to parliament and to the country. But unfortunately no use was made of that, the government remained absolutely idle for two or three years, and when the matter was brought up and discussed in the House, the government saw fit to put up one or two of their well known defenders to make statements which were not justified by the facts, and which were not justified by subsequent investigation. If the action of my hon. friend is on the same line of obtaining expert assistance, and then not availing himself of it, or rather perverting it to improper purposes, it would be unfortunate. For my part, I am of opinion, and have often expressed myself to that effect in the House, that we are far too prone to employ others to do work that we should do ourselves. That remark applies distinctly to this new department of the government, the Department of Labour. It is realized by members of this House, I think, and by the country generally, that this department, at all events, has not too much work to do. It is well understood in the country, and is emphasized by the press, that the peculiar functions assigned to the Minister of Labour have not been very efficiently discharged, in some respects, by that gentleman, and the prediction of the good results that would follow the constitution of a Department of Labour, have not been verified. I think it would be better for the departments to familiarize themselves with the work they have in hand, and to enable members of this House to familiarize themselves with the conditions of tne country, by appointing special committees to investigate these matters as far as possible at first hand, than to allow this system to creep in of employing experts, royal commissions, and so forth, to do the work which we could well do ourselves. I see the Prime Minister is in his place and an apt illustration of that will come up later on in the case of the appointment of the special Commission for the Conservation of our Natural Eesources. When that proposal was introduced into this House we were told that it would only cost a matter of 92

$20,000 a year or less. I find that the chairman of that commission is about to apply to parliament for a vote of $50,000 for the year's work of the commission. The matter of money is of little account, comparatively speaking, but I called it to the attention of the Prime Minister at the time that we were, by relegating these duties to outsiders, preventing ourselves from obtaining that familiarity with the resources of the country which we require in order to be in a position to prevent these resources from being raided.

I venture to make the statement that much of the information acquired by the commission will be utilized for the purpose of enabling those in close touch with the government to make raids upon the natural resources of this country and to utilize them to their own advantage. At the present moment we have some evidence that information which is being _ obtained by the commission is being exploited by members of this House, and i3 being turned to their own advantage. It will be a surprise to the country, or to me at all events, if it turns out that much of the money we are spending for the purpose of gathering information and collecting it with reference to our natural resources will not really be used for the purpose of enriching and aggrandizing certain persons. [DOT]

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Sir WILFEID LAUEIEE.

I think my hon. friend (Mr. Lennox) will regret the language which he has just made use of. First of all, it is out of place altogether upon this motion, and it is out of place because he makes an insinuation. If the hon. gentleman has charges to make, he is at liberty to make them. Otherwise, his words have no weight at all.

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CON

Angus Claude Macdonell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MACDONELL.

As a member of the committee to which this question was referred, I desire to say that we felt that if we were to properly discharge our duties it was necessary to obtain some outside assistance. The committee asked the hon. Minister of Labour to see if his department could furnish the assistance. He said that it could not, and, having regard to the nature of assistance we required, which was of a semi-legal character, it did not seem unreasonable to the committee that some outside assistance should be secured. That assistance was procured in the person of a gentleman who has appeared before the committee at the various sittings and who, in the opinion of the committee, has given entire satisfaction. It was felt by the members of the committee, eleven in number, that they could not devote sufficient of their time and attention to the work to do it complete justice. Most of the gentlemen were sitting on other select committees, all of them on the general committees, and I, as a member of

that committee, felt that I could not give it that personal attention necessary to investigate the various sources of legislation in other countries that, in my opinion, it required, and the other members of the committee felt that they were unable to give proper consideration to the measure. That being the view of the committee, this gentleman's services were, by unanimous consent, procured and he is performing his work. If it is not usual to procure services such as this gentleman is rendering, well and good; that is another matter entirely, but his services were procured because it was felt by the committee that some such assistance was necessary. He is giving the committee the assistance it had been looking for, and which it requires in order to give proper consideration to the matter referred to.

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CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

I do not think we have heard from the minister in exculpation of his own department or any sufficient reason why there should be this extra employment. The whole matter seems to be that a rather expensive department, with what we supposed to be an up-to-date minister and staff, is not able to collate and bring before the committee the results of the legislation with regard to labour, so that the committee could have the material upon which to carry on its investigations. I think it is time that we should know what the Labour Department is going to do for the amount of money we are paying, which is yearly increasing. It seems to me that it should have intelligence enough to do this little bit of research and collation which is necessary to put certain information before the committee. I am not raising any objection against a small amount of money being expended for the purpose if it were absolutely necessary; what I am pointing out is that the Labour Department ought to be able to give at fairly short notice certain information which ought to be at the hands of that department at any [DOT] hour.

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CON

Richard Blain

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BLAIN.

Again I ask the minister if this official who is referred to in the report has been engaged and is at work now?

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LIB

George Gerald King

Liberal

Mr. KING.

I would say, in answer to the question just asked, that Professor Skelton, whom it is desired to retain in this connection, has already been giving evidence before the committee, has been giving the results of some of his researches into this question, and it is proposed that the committee shall ask him to make a special report.

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CON
LIB

George Gerald King

Liberal

Mr. KING.

He has already given some of his evidence before the committee. As Mr. MACDONELL.

chairman of the committee I was informed by the clerk of the House that it was not necessary to ask the concurrence of the House in the action of the committee in obtaining this gentleman's services for this purpose, but it was thought better to do it and for this reason this present concurrence is being asked.

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CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

By what authority was a payment of money agreed to without any appropriation or authorization by the House?

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LIB

George Gerald King

Liberal

Mr. KING.

I understand that there is a general appropriation for the purpose of assisting committees in the matter of the evidence which is taken before them, and it was proposed by this committee to deal with this in the same manner as these matters are dealt with by other [DOT] committees.

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CON

George Eulas Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER.

That does not warrant them in employing special help. That is for the witnesses and the like of that.

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LIB

George Gerald King

Liberal

Mr. KING.

If the House will give me an opportunity I will be very glad to show what the Department of Labour is doing in view of some of the reflections which have been cast upon its work. However, at the moment, I will content myself with drawing attention to the kind of criticism that is made of the department and of the unfair nature of the charges that are sometimes levelled at it. The hon. member for Peel (Mr. Blain) has just read to the House from the Auditor General's Report a statement which he says shows the expenditure of the department to be $112,000 a year. I have in my hand a copy of the Auditor General's Report, and I will read from it just to show how that total is made up. I see here Royal Commission re losses of Japanese residents of Vancouver through riots in September, 1907, $623, and Chinese claims re riots in Vancouver, September, 1907, $27,433.41. That was money paid in settlement of the claims of Chinese for losses occasioned in the riots in Vancouver, something with which the Department of Labour as a department has nothing to do. The item is included but it is not a part of the expenditure of the Department of Labour in any sense of the word. Similarly, we have the Royal Commission re oriental labourers, $1,268.23, the Royal Commission re cotton industry in the province of Quebec, $1,404 and the joint International Opium Conference, Shanghai, China, $5,500. These are all items which are not properly chargeable in any sense of the word to the Department of Labour. If they are deducted from the total it will be seen that the cost of the Department is not anything like what the hon. gentleman would lead the country to believe.

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CON

Adam Brown Crosby

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CROSBY.

We started in to discuss the question that is before the House. We have gone into one or two other matters and now we have come to the Chinese question. I think we should confine ourselves to the question before the House.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Mr. HUGHES.

May I ask the minister if the item of $112,000 includes the expenditure of the officers of this government who went specially to bring in these Chinese as workmen in the first place?

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February 2, 1910